Kidney stands by O’Callaghan decision
Declan Kidney’s inclusion of Donncha O’Callaghan at the expense of Leo Cullen raised a few eyebrows when the Ireland team to face England was announced at Killiney Castle.
The Irish coach admitted it had been a difficult decision and a close call.
He said the same thing with regard to the exclusion of Ronan O’Gara, Jonathan Sexton having been given the nod to start at stand-off.
“To leave ROG out for a match like this is not an easy call. He has a wealth of experience,” Kidney admitted.
But unlike the O’Gara-Sexton debate where most sided with the inclusion of the incoming player, many felt that Cullen was very unfortunate to be dropped, especially as O’Callaghan has not played since January 22.
Explaining that decision Kidney said: “I have to go with what I see in training and Donncha has done most of the training sessions.
“We’re into a balance here of trying to talk up Donncha, which I find difficult to do because by contrast it’s not about trying to talk down Leo.
“There’s an opportunity which ever way we go.
“I think that the mix Donncha will bring is the right one for this game.
“I think people will respect the fact that we see what goes on in training.”
O'Callaghan admits an English scalp is still prized like no other.
“We can play England at any sport and everyone watching will want us to beat them. Rugby's no different,” he said. “Granted we might know a few of them, but it's still England and a massive game.”
Ulster prop Tom Court has lost out in what appears to have been a decision motivated more by a desire to give another player — in this case Munster’s Tony Buckley — a turn as by the form of the man making way for him.
Kidney said: “I thought Tom Court was in good fettle coming off the January Heineken Cup matches. We gave Tony the two starts in the A games and he got the Magners League game last week so I just thought it was fair to give him a go in this one.”
Kidney highlighted the fact that Marcus Horan “has come back into the reckoning and Mike Ross has joined us in training this week and is going well, too.”
However he qualified that by saying: “It’s important to us to keep everybody going but you don’t give a guy a jersey just to keep him going.
“If somebody is getting rewarded, unfortunately somebody else has to drop out. In this case, that’s Tom.”
Like Court, Paddy Wallace has lost his place on the bench, with fellow-Ulsterman Andrew Trimble brought back onto it after being left out of the 22 for Paris.
Kidney continues to do it his way.