Kidney happy with preparations
Declan Kidney is satisfied Ireland's preparations for the World Cup are on track.
The Irish host France at the Aviva Stadium in the second match of their double header on Saturday, ushering in an important phase for the squad in their countdown to New Zealand. Losses to Scotland and Les Bleus have increased the pressure to perform over the next two weekends, though Kidney is pleased with the current rate of progress.
"We've lost the two games and every time you put on a green jersey you want to win a match," said the coach.
"But I'm happy everything is coming together and the way the players are going about their business."
Key players Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy and Stephen Ferris will make their first appearances of the summer after recovering from injury. Paul O'Connell and Jamie Heaslip start, David Wallace makes his series debut and the first-choice half-back pairing of Jonathan Sexton and Tomas O'Leary are selected in tandem.
There is also a full Test debut for Felix Jones, who profits from the groin injury sustained by Rob Kearney. O'Driscoll accepts that winning on Saturday is the ultimate aim, but insists defeat would not cause panic to break out in the camp.
"Winning is important but isn't the be all and end all. It's also about getting game time and getting up to speed," said the 32-year-old.
"If we didn't win any of the four warm-up games it wouldn't be ideal, but it's not the World Cup right now. The World Cup is in three weeks' time, so let's focus on getting the best possible performance against France.
We're going into the game with the attitude that we really want to win this game, so let's see what happens. There's definitely an onus on trying to win the game but because some guys will be making their first start, it's essentially about playing your way into the season.
"We'll try to get the performance that will take care of the result. It's about making sure we have the right mentality for the weekend. Our intensity and physicality need to be right."