Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Irish slump is the players' fault

The performance of Ulster's Paddy Jackson came under intense scrutiny as the fly half missed two penalty attempts
The performance of Ulster's Paddy Jackson came under intense scrutiny as the fly half missed two penalty attempts

Declan Kidney and his coaches should not be blamed for the players' failures, according to Donnacha Ryan.

The Munster lock has rowed into the discussion about the national coach's position and has given his backing to Kidney and his team.

"Obviously, Declan doesn't throw any passes. At the end of the day, it's all down to us to try and get the result out there," said Ryan.

"He and the coaching staff, their preparation has been fantastic."

"I don't think the criticism is warranted.

"Declan has created a fantastic environment for us and it is just unfortunate the results haven't gone the way we would have liked."

"I think he is doing great and is providing us with the tools we need to be successful. He definitely creates a very good environment for us to do our business in and that's exactly what you want.

"We're all in this together, we all work together.

"We all have a lot of opinions on how we should develop and that's the important thing, that voices aren't going quiet now.

"It's more a case of where do we go from here. The meeting we had was very good and we are building towards France and our next game," he added.

The powerful Ryan is confident of his own chances of being fit for the game.

He suffered yet another injury during the loss to Scotland, this time suffering from a bang to his shoulder.

He has been playing through the pain barrier in this year's Six Nations Championship and has taken a lot of punishment in the matches. He is constantly nursing his back, but is determined to do what he can for the team.

"I put pressure on myself to get on the field no matter what, I suppose. As people might say: 'I'd give my left arm to play for Ireland' – I definitely would," said Ryan. "I give my whole body to do it and that is not saying it lightly.

"Look, everybody puts so much into trying to play for Ireland that the bottom line is you would try to go through any pain barriers to do it."

Meanwhile, Ireland's hopes that Jonathan Sexton will be fit for their RBS 6 Nations clash with France on Saturday week are fading.

Sexton missed the 12-8 defeat by Scotland with a hamstring injury, but team manager Mick Kearney has revealed that his chances of returning for the must-win encounter are receding.

"Jonny continues to make progress. He's back running this week but to reach match level intensity there's still significant work to do," Kearney said.

"At this stage we are more hopeful than confident of his availability for France. We would say it's somewhat less than 50-50."

Ryan's second row partner Mike McCarthy continues to nurse a knee problem.

The prognosis over Craig Gilroy's groin complaint is better, however, with the Ulster wing expected to train next week.

"Donnacha (Ryan) suffered a bruised AC joint. He won't take part in training this week and will be reassessed on Monday. At this stage he is in some doubt for France," Kearney said.

"Mike is running well and is improving, but he has a number of milestones to reach before being available for selection. At this stage we'd rate his chances of being fit at 50-50.

"Craig Gilroy suffered a groin strain but scans excluded a tear. He continues to improve and should train fully next week."

Ireland's Six Nations has imploded amid an awful injury-list and successive defeats to England and Scotland, with the loss of a match in Edinburgh that they dominated being particularly damaging.

The performance of Ulster's Paddy Jackson came under intense scrutiny as the fly half missed two penalty attempts and failed to convert Gilroy's try.

The results have seen calls for Kidney to step down escalate, but the head coach is focusing only on inflicting a fourth successive championship defeat on France.

"I haven't been thinking about that.

"My only concern is to help this team do as well as they can do. That's my reason for being here," Kidney said.

"We have a match against France next weekend and that's all I'm concentrating on.

"There are huge highs and lows that go with this job and last Sunday was a big low, especially after having created so much."

The erratic leadership of Jamie Heaslip, who replaced Brian O'Driscoll as captain before the championship, has been identified as a weakness, but Kidney not surprisingly has backed the Leinster number eight.

"I'm aware there are frustrations out there. Jamie's done an excellent job for us. He's making good decisions and I'm very happy with him," Kidney stated.