Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

This is week to savour Kidney tells Irish players

Declan Kidney has urged his players to relish their time in the spotlight as Ireland prepare for their final assault on the Grand Slam.

After winning the war of attrition against the Scots, expectation will be cranked up to unprecedented levels this week as this Ireland team, hailed as the ‘golden generation’, attempt to dethrone Wales and complete only the second Grand Slam in Irish history.

But rather than be cowed by the enormity of the occasion, Kidney has ordered his side to embrace the attention they receive.

"I won't be shielding the players from the pressure. This is a week to be enjoyed. If you don't enjoy times like this you won't enjoy anything," he said.

"Our job is to stay professional. We'll prepare the same way for this one as we did with every other match, but admittedly this is new territory for everybody."

After six weeks of furiously distancing Ireland from any discussion of the Grand Slam, victory at Murrayfield has forced Kidney (right) to finally confront the elusive prize at stake.

He could hardly have dreamt of a better first Six Nations in charge with his side's progress a far cry from an indifferent autumn that raised more questions than answers.

Ireland top the table but the canny former Munster coach has wasted no time installing Wales as favourites to triumph at the Millennium Stadium.

“They are defending Grand Slam champions and are playing at home.

“They're playing for the championship and for the Triple Crown,” said Kidney.

Ireland may sit on the brink of their first championship title since 1985 but it has been heavy going at times.

Since dazzling in the thriller against France and putting Italy to the sword, they have eked out ugly victories over England and Scotland.

Munster's stamp was all over Murrayfield yesterday as the Scots were pounded into submission during an utterly one-sided second half, barely escaping from their own half.

The decisive moment arrived in the 51st minute when man of the match Peter Stringer raced into a huge gap at a line-out before feeding number eight Jamie Heaslip the scoring pass.

It was the highlight of a instantly forgettable 80 minutes that saw Scotland dominate before the interval only to crumble beneath Ireland's second-half onslaught.

The transformation was marked but Kidney insists there was no hairdryer treatment involved.

"At half-time it was pretty calm. The players came in and sat down, we had a cup of tea and tried to get a few messages across," he said.

"There's no point ranting and raving because they're professional players.

"You try and make your feelings known on what is needed and the boys take them on board. We played a bit smarter."

Ireland won few points for style against England or Scotland but Wales could coax the best from them given Warren Gatland's side need to win by 13 points to overhaul them in the table.

Denis Leamy's fitness will be assessed after the Munster number eight sustained a shoulder injury, making room for Heaslip's appearance after 30 minutes.

Otherwise Kidney insists Ireland will travel to Millennium Stadium with little more than a few bumps and bruises.

"We have to be prudent about the way we go about training this week," he said.

"Scotland was a very physical game. The games seem to get tighter and tighter and the forwards have put in a huge effort.

"Now it's all about recovery and making sure we're ready for the next one."

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