Kearney sticks up for under-fire Kidney
Ireland full-back Rob Kearney insists only the players can be held accountable for a troubled RBS 6 Nations campaign that appears to be doing terminal harm to the reign of head coach Declan Kidney.
A logic-defying 12-8 defeat against Scotland on Sunday meant Kidney suffered back-to-back championship setbacks for the first time, and his chances of securing a contract extension beyond the summer seem bleak.
"On a day like that when we had so much possession and created so much, the blame has to be on the players," said Leinster full-back Kearney. "The coaches can't make that final pass for you or make that clinical decision. The players must take responsibility and must bear the brunt."
He added: "The guys were happy with the gameplan and how we were playing the game. We created opportunities. The stats show that we played the right way - it was just one of those days when you can't really explain things. It was very disappointing as we should have won, and as a team we have to take responsibility for that."
While there is justification for Kearney's defence of his coach, results alone suggest it is highly implausible that the Irish Rugby Football Union will retain Kidney.
Reports of internal divisions have surfaced and even after mitigation for the number of players lost to injury and suspension, the overall sense of confusion points to a new man being in charge for the summer tour to North America.
Ireland's fortunes could deteriorate further with winless France arriving at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday week.
"It's a massive two weeks ahead of us now. We need a big statement against France for ourselves, the jersey and our country. People deserve more," Kearney said. "It doesn't help that France are zero from three. They will come over as a wounded animal, but we have to be more of one. We really need to fight hard and win that game."
Meanwhile, Ireland are hoping Cian Healy will be available to face France after the Six Nations confirmed his appeal will be heard on Wednesday in Glasgow.
Healy was suspended for three weeks for stamping on England's Dan Cole, but is appealing on the grounds that his ban was effectively extended to four weeks as he was barred from playing for Leinster on February 16.