Kidney’s respect for his fringe players has built strength in squad
I like the look of the Irish team to play France in Dublin on Saturday evening.
In particular I welcome the return of proven and previously absent stars like captain Brian O’Driscoll and his Leinster team-mate Gordon D’Arcy.
The restoration of last season’s front and back rows is a huge plus, as is the fact that Paul O’Connell and Jamie Heaslip start on this occasion.
Ireland’s 2011 World Cup cleverly-structured and properly-phased build-up is in stark contrast to 2009 when Declan Kidney’s predecessor kept his players in cotton wool in the hope that when they got to France, they would thrive. They didn’t and the rest, as they say, is history — like Eddie O’Sullivan, at least from an Irish perspective.
How apt, in the circumstances, that Ireland will launch their 2011 RWC campaign with a meeting against the United States whose coach is O’Sullivan. They will delight in showing him what he missed out on four years ago when his side flopped.
Kidney is an advocate of running rugby and the squad he has built reflects that ethos. He has created strength in depth — more than Ireland have ever had.
In preparing for New Zealand he has used players cleverly, allowing the injured time in which to recover and fielding progressively stronger starting XVs. Saturday will be Ireland’s best line-up to date, with the pre-tournament zenith being a Dublin date with England.
By that stage the 30 going to New Zealand will be known and ideally Ireland will leave these shores having seen off their oldest and most bitter adversaries.
Kidney is loyal to those in whom he has faith. They need not always be first-choice players. Very often, they are not.
But a characteristic they share is a willingness to keep working and a refusal to huff, sulk or throw the head up.
Players tend to be proud men to whom exclusion is hurtful.
Almost always each has what he considers to be his best position, the one to which he believes he is best suited and from where he offers most.
But sometimes coaches see things differently, tending to look at a bigger picture, probably from a different angle.
Andrew Trimble is a case in point. And now he is earning his rewards for, having had his share of setbacks, he has emerged as a player whose determination and ability have earned Kidney’s recognition and respect.
The winger did not enter Ireland’s pre-World Cup set-up at Maynooth as one of those guaranteed a World Cup place. But a great camp plus two highly-impressive performances against Scotland and France have earned him a third successive start — the only member of the squad able to boast that.
The O’Driscolls, the O’Connells, the Bowes, the Heaslips are going to be central to the forthcoming campaign. But the success or otherwise of this World Cup bid will be dependent on those who, whilst not marquee players, nevertheless are crucial parts of the jigsaw.
That where the Trimbles — and the Tom Courts — come into their own. Neither burdened by ego, nor embittered by the fact that they have had to play second fiddle so often, to their credit they have got on with it.
Between now and Saturday, that will be a good policy for all the others.