Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Declan Kidney is starting to feel heat

Declan Kidney faces an anxious weekend before deciding on Ireland’s team to face England at Twickenham.

The reality is that the man who could do no wrong only 12 months ago, now faces the biggest test of his glittering coaching career.

He will be under the spotlight like never before with his starting XV for Twickenham coming under the closest scrutiny. The contrast with last year couldn’t be greater. Then Ireland, free of injuries, went through the season with little or no changes.

Now after the debacle of Paris the Irish coach finds himself having to find replacements for the injured full back Robert Kearney and suspended hooker Jerry Flannery.

Former Ireland and Lions second row Donal Lennihan is well placed to assess the problems.

“In many respects the defeat in Paris was a real wake-up call. It’s a major challenge for both the coach and players alike,” he said. “Ideally after a bad beating you would like to be going back to the confines of Croke Park and the opportunity to regroup.

“Instead it’s off to Twickenham, the last place you would wanting to be going after the events in Paris.

“In the summer Ireland head off on a tour of Australia and New Zealand and they had been counting on beating France in Paris.”

Lenihan also makes the point very forcibly that at the finish of the game in Paris the Irish players looked battered and bruised.

“Munster’s pack this season hasn’t dominated the way it has in the past and in too many matches they have been on the receiving end,” he observed.

Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll maintains that Ireland were guilty of too many unforced errors, but that was due for the greater part to the physicality of the French and their ability to play the game at a far greater tempo.

Under Kidney Ireland until now have played with admirable discipline.

But that level of disciple deserted them in the Stade de France with prop Cian Healy being yellow carded, during which time Ireland conceded 10 points. Jerry Flannery somehow managed to remain on the pitch for 80 minutes, but will now miss the remainder of the Six Nations after being cited for kicking out at an opponent.

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