It’s almost two weeks since the hooker’s fingerprints were lifted from the scene of the crime that was deemed to be New Zealand’s misfiring lineouts in Chicago. By the end of the week, he’d missed his wife Sarah give birth to his second son Reef Nicholas.
You could probably make the case that he had a pretty good excuse, what with his duties in North America and here in Europe. Problem is he managed to make it back from Argentina for the arrival of his firstborn, Jax Ronnie, two years ago.
“It’s all good at home,” he said. “A bit of a scare with the earthquakes, but she is pretty busy with no sleep and another two-year-old running around keeping her crazy... He’s healthy, keeping mum awake, so I’m in the bad books until I get home.”
You doubt he is, really. Even his part in the All Blacks’ lineout troubles is up for debate. The absence of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock surely had more to do with all that than Coles’s arm. If anything, it was the three penalties he coughed up that must have really infuriated Steve Hansen.
“I probably let myself down with the throws the last time,” said Coles, who starts again in Dublin tomorrow.
“I just have to make sure I trust in my process. I probably overcooked it a bit in the first Test, but I have been throwing pretty good this year.
“So one bad lineout doesn’t make me a bad thrower. I have to believe in my ability. I have to make sure I improve for Saturday, because a few of those darts they got a lot of confidence from and they scored a few points. It’s very important this week.”
It’s not as if Ireland caught them on the hop.
Joe Moody, the loosehead prop, had spoken in the lead-in about how Ireland base so much of their attack around the lineout, but knowing about a threat and dealing with it are two separate realities.
Coles is racking up the DVD hours, as he preps for round two.
“They’ve got a lot of height and, with someone like Rory Best there as well, they’ve got a world-class hooker, so they win a lot of their ball. Defensively, they’ve got guys like [Jamie] Heaslip and they stay alive and are quite good on the ground.
“There’s a bit more planning probably gone into the lineout this week. In defence and attack, they are great at the setpiece, especially getting up at the lineout. They put a lot of pressure on our jumpers and we lost a lot of ball. We’ve got to give them a lot of credit for that.”
Compliments about Ireland have been 10 a penny from the tourists, but Coles couldn’t help but chuckle when his coach’s claim about the All Blacks being underdogs at the Aviva was put to him.
“Aw mate, I don’t really see it like that, but the big dog, he’s the boss.”
Coles’s all-court game is the perfect case in point as to why New Zealand are always favourites. There is a five-minute tribute video dedicated to his box of tricks on YouTube and he has previous in punishing Ireland.
It was Coles who skipped [far too easily, it must be said] around Ian Madigan and offloaded to Ryan Crotty under pressure from Sean O’Brien for that gut-wrenching injury-time try in Dublin three years ago.
So, how come there was no repeat when New Zealand clawed their way back in Chicago?
“We didn’t score… When we got close, our discipline let us down. At one stage, it was 33-29, they kicked off and got a penalty straight away. That gave them a lot of confidence. They just kept playing. They didn’t go into their shell.
“They kept putting pressure on us, and did it right up until the last minute when they scored. They had a lot of belief in there. They played to the 80th minute and it cost us. We gave ourselves a chance, but they had great belief that they could do the job.”
They’ve dismissed talk of revenge all week. Don’t believe a word.