Churchill spirit is boost for Kidney as Ireland lose to Australia
Australia 22 Ireland 15
“The more often we play these teams, the better we'll get... once we stay strong in our belief in what we do.”
So said Ireland coach Declan Kidney in the aftermath of a third Test reverse, this time 22-15 to Australia in Brisbane, and fifth defeat on the bounce.
Ordinarily, those statistics would constitute an Irish rugby crisis — particularly for a coach who has never suffered five defeats in succession dating back to his time coaching schools rugby in Cork.
But the circumstances of this expedition allow a different assessment as the injuries and withdrawals piled up.
Although the success of any tour is ultimately judged by results, Kidney has acquired more information about his resources over the past four weeks and now has more depth to call on heading into World Cup year, and that has to be a successful outcome.
Yet it has also highlighted areas in need of urgent attention.
After watching the Wallabies dismantle the Irish scrum, Kidney zoned in on the need for a front-row focus and the importance of the Irish-qualified props getting game-time with their provinces.
“Specifically, we need our Irish front-rows to get more and more experience,” he stressed.
“But the provincial coaches have their job to do, too. They pick the best players they have on their roster and we need the provinces to do well there, too, so I wouldn't be picking on them. It's a fine line.
“But you can't buy experience. We gave experience to a number of players here and the fact that we're disappointed, does that say something? Five of the lads that started played in the Churchill Cup final last year and they have come to within seven points of Australia, so they will be the better for the experience.”
Plenty for Kidney to ponder over the summer, but the result that matters is when Ireland face Australia in their World Cup pool next year and this encounter will have been useful homework.