| 4°C Belfast

Ireland coach Declan Kidney happy to examine fresh approach

Backed into a corner by the absence of six key front-liners and a wealth of leadership experience that encapsulates the last two Lions captains, Irish coach Declan Kidney had little option but to accelerate the renewal of his struggling squad.

With less than a year to go on his coaching contract and mindful of a miserable sequence of test results since the illusory World Cup high achieved against Australia more than a year ago, the embattled coach has plumped for uncharacteristic upheaval.

By referencing the seminal introduction of six new caps by Warren Gatland against Scotland all of 12 years ago, Kidney may have over-egged the pudding a tad but there is certainly a sense of freshness about this squad, compared to the staleness that has latterly crept in during his side's recent travails.

“I remember a few years ago there were six guys and all of them got their first caps together,” says Kidney (pictured).

“They put their hands up and said they wanted to keep the jersey and they didn't leave it go for a long time. So, who knows?

“This is the latest opportunity and I know that it won't be for any lack of wanting that they'll strive to hold onto it for as long as they can but let's just see how it goes.”

Asked specifically if the unwanted prospect of seeing his key front-liners being felled like trees in the build-up to this game may have paradoxically engendered an unwitting re-generation, the coach reverted typically to the hypothetical.

“Who's to know that? I'm sure the six guys who are out injured at the moment will be working their way back in and hoping to be available for the Six Nations,” he added.

“I'm not sure of anyone here who wouldn't be thinking of writing them off today. For example, Richardt Strauss isn't going to be making it easy for Rory Best to get back in and the squad can only gain in strength from that.

“Each player who's getting the opportunity for what you might call a named player being out...it's not like those players are finished with their careers. They've all been playing well. It's just unfortunate that there's a block of them out injured right now.

“The squad, as a whole, can become stronger as a result of that. We have a fairly arduous task after South Africa and we have to pick ourselves up after New Zealand. I feel, from talking to some lads, that they've learned a lot from New Zealand.”

The key elements of replenishment are full-back, where Simon Zebo earns only his second cap in a position foreign to him since schooldays, naturalised hooker Strauss and reserve props Michael Bent and Dave Kilcoyne.

Added to Keith Earls' latest claim to the absent Brian O'Driscoll's 13 shirt and the introduction of a new second-row partnership of Donnacha Ryan and Connacht's form performer Mike McCarthy, there is much to be enthused about.

Belfast Telegraph