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Six Nations: Ireland fit for World Cup purpose, says Kidney

By Hugh Farrelly

Declan Kidney believes Ireland are in a better position to launch a meaningful World Cup challenge than they were as Grand Slam champions two years ago.

Kidney's side denied England their first Grand Slam since 2003 with an emphatic 24-8 victory at Lansdowne Road on Saturday and, despite losing to France and Wales, the manager says the development of players such as Sean O'Brien, Keith Earls and Mike Ross during this Six Nations has strengthened the squad for New Zealand 2011.

“We won two years ago with not a whole lot of players,” said Kidney.

“Now, we have a broader base. We can cope with a few bangs and knocks.

We need match practice to get us right for the World Cup, and that is where the four warm-up matches in August are important.

“It can't be fair: everybody would love to play all four matches, but it won't be like that. But we have a broader base so if somebody doesn't turn up for work, we are better equipped to carry that.

“If the boys do well with the provinces, that puts more pep in their step.”

And, while praising the contribution of the newer breed, Kidney took time out to acknowledge the value of Paul O'Connell, who returned to the Six Nations after nine months out following the groin injury he picked up against Scotland this time last year.

“I can't speak highly enough of Paul,” said Kidney.

“He's played seven games, and to try and regain your match fitness in Heineken Cup and Test rugby, and be a leader in the pack? That's a monumental achievement.

“Paul is still giving out he's not match fit. You know there is more to come.”

Belfast Telegraph

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