A QUESTION ABOUT blooding new players was broached in the last rites of Ireland’s press briefing at Carton House on Monday.
Assistant coach Les Kiss pounced on it. He replied, “If anyone got a chance to look inside how things have being going for the last six to eight weeks, and even the November series, we’ve had to handle those challenges.
“I think everyone would be nothing but impressed by the group of guys that have taken on the challenges that have been thrown at them. We’re not ones to throw our hands in the air about injuries and all those things.”
Kiss added, “The guys have put their heads down and working hard and, to tell you the truth, they deserve a bit more than what’s been coming.”
Speaking on Newstalk’s Off The Ball last night, host Ger Gilroy told guest Brian O’Driscoll that Ireland ‘could very easily be heading into this [Italy] match with a Grand Slam on the line’.
O’Driscoll spoke about a range of issues, from retirement talk to his new daughter, Sadie, and responded to a question about ‘negativity and gloom’ about the Irish rugby team.
“Players read newspapers,” he said. “They are asked, at press conferences, questions and when they see the negative spin being put out – not being asked many positive questions – that has an effect, for sure.”
Ireland have won one game from four and have managed just 30 points from their last 280 minutes [three and a half matches] of rugby.
Kidney has been vociferous in his defence of the Irish team in recent weeks. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
The head coach himself, Declan Kidney, came out on Saturday, following his side’s 13-13 draw with France, with his strongest defence of the team in over a year.
He declared, “[The players and management team] haven’t bitched or complained or moaned about anything.
Everything that has been thrown at them they have just kind of taken it. and to put your foot forward and to be creating what you are doing, that actually adds to the frustration. It is not like everything is steady going into it. That is why I would have to speak up for them.
“They are down now but that is a measure of how they push themselves too. I think in another time, the team will be so much stronger than what is going on at the moment.”
There are two ways of looking at this – either Kidney, with a contract expiring in the summer, is preparing to step away from the Irish set-up soon or he is getting his defence out in the open now and hoping to stay on until the World Cup in 2015.
Alan Quinlan and Gerry Thornley, who both write, often excellently, for the Irish Times, were guests on Off The Ball’s rugby segment last night and discussed the coaching options.
Quinlan, the ex-Munster and Ireland flanker, argued that Kidney had not enjoyed much luck with some of his selections this season. He has defended his former coach on numerous occasions in the past but admitted ‘there will probably be a new coach’.
Thornley pointed out a “ridiculous” injury situation that, by his count, had denied Kidney the services of 12 Test-level players.
He believes Harlequins coach Conor O’Shea will honour his commitment to the Aviva Premiership club and is not convinced that Leinster coach Joe Schmidt would be tempted by the role, preferring to return to his native New Zealand in 2014.
There might be a case, Thornley commented, for promoting Kiss to the top job. He also argued the merits of four-year cycles and ‘this coaching ticket staying on until the World Cup’.
A contract extension was also mooted in the Irish Independent before Ireland played England at Lansdowne Road last month. A lot has changed since then.
*What do you think? Should the IRFU retain Kidney’s services or find a new coach this summer?