No excuses, it’s time for Kidney to go
Apart from Stephen Ferris’ finger and the ongoing chat about what happened to the Irish scrum, the dust is beginning to settle on the Six Nations action.
While nobody can have any gripe about the results, the quality of the action was such that you would have been forgiven for retiring to bed straight after the final whistle at Twickenham. Alternatively, there were plenty of opportunities for power naps throughout the three games, so maybe the batteries ended up fully recharged after all.
While the action has ended, the chat about the coaching arrangements will surely keep us interested for the next few weeks at least.
Italy’s Jacques Brunel will be a happy man with victory over Scotland and his squad seem to have embraced a more ambitious attacking approach.
Consistency will always be the great challenge over the five matches, but the Italians definitely add an extra element of unpredictability, particularly when playing at home.
Philippe Saint-Andre will be left scratching his head. He will stay simply because he deserves a chance and he is only into his job. Nevertheless, his appointment was made public before the RWC, so he has had plenty of opportunity to scrutinise his potential players.
One would have expected him to have had a much clearer picture of who he wanted as his starting halfback partnership. For me, the Lionel Beauxis experiment was the one that backfired most and I would be amazed if the Toulouse player remains in the ten shirt.
Warren Gatland has copperfastened his position as head coach of the British and Irish Lions.
Rightly so, as he has demonstrated many virtues: Gatland has been brave in selection, has fostered a happy squad, who play for him and each other and raise their game when it counts.
I was about to write that among the other Home Nations’ coaches, he is uniquely qualified, but then, you think about Stuart Lancaster. Has he not ticked all those same boxes? Unquestionably yes, but England’s coach has other more immediate issues on his mind.
Everyone seems to be endorsing his application to continue as the Head Coach — players, fellow coaches and supporters, but when it comes to the RFU, anything is possible.
If rugby is a meritocracy, then Lancaster will stay. I have nothing but admiration for the man and what he has achieved in such a short space of time.
I would keep him doing exactly what he has been doing — coaching.
However, there is still room for a senior individual — a ‘manager’ — who could mentor Lancaster and provide invaluable advice based on senior international experience.
Nick Mallett is the man on everyone’s lips and his openly passionate and demonstrative manner would be a perfect foil to Lancaster’s more understated approach. There is room for both and the cheque-book can afford it.
Andy Robinson, I hope, is on a beach somewhere with his shades on and a book in his hand. It may well be Dante’s Inferno — the idea of searching for ‘Paradiso’ but journeying through Hell seems rather apt. Robinson deserves a good rest.
He strikes me as a deeply loyal and honourable man, but you wonder how much more frustration he can take?
This leaves us with Declan Kidney. No matter what anyone thinks, a three match tour to New Zealand is no way to initiate a new international coach. Kidney will remain, at least in the short term, but he is under enormous pressure.
Unless there is a major turnaround Kidney should be replaced this summer.
There is one glaring reason — because the pool of players in Ireland is limited, it is even more important for a coach to have vision and enterprise.
Kidney has fallen short on both these counts and this has manifested itself most of all in selection.
Had it not been for Paul O’Connell’s injury, we would never have seen Donnacha Ryan starting in the second row. Gordon D’Arcy has been a magnificent international player — I remember playing with him when he was named Player of the Six Nations — but his best days are past. New players and combinations have got to be blooded. Kidney has been presented with opportunities, but has not taken them.
It feels like time for a change and sooner rather than later Ireland may face the same dilemma currently facing England and Scotland.