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Rugby World Cup: Ireland players' World Cup warm up performances rated

By Tony Ward

By any standard, it's been a bad four weeks for Declan Kidney.

Yes, there are extenuating circumstances and, yes, we now have a fair whack of players with game-time in the tank, but in contrast to that there's a squad with confidence and collective morale leaking more and more with each successive defeat.

Ignore the guff which says winning in August doesn't matter. In the opening two build-up games against Scotland and France, selection was such that winning on the road was as unlikely as it would've been expected.

Coming second at Murrayfield and Bordeaux could be conceded to the bigger picture. And like most everybody else, I bought into that. But the last fortnight has seen us drop to levels of performance unacceptable for a team with semi-final aspirations.

We have gone from fourth to eighth in world rankings and from top team in the northern hemisphere to fifth now, with only Italy of the Six Nations teams below us.

Don't tell me that a sudden dip of that magnitude doesn't impact on the overall psyche — of course it does.

Losing four pre-season friendlies on the bounce won't be remembered if we get it right over the next six or so weeks, but lose our way in the pool, a la France '07, and the heat is on a coach set to come under ever increasing pressure irrespective of recent contracts signed.

I rate Kidney’s performance over the past four matches at 4 out of 10.

And on the basis of form, irrespective of any other factor, here’s how I feel the 30 chosen to travel have delivered over the last four frustrating weeks.

Belfast Telegraph

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