Declan Kidney has attempted to explain the confusion that surrounded Ireland’s withdrawal of stand-off Jonathan Sexton when he was replaced by Ronan O’Gara in the 50th minute of Saturday’s unexpected defeat by Scotland.
With Scotland leading 17-7 and Sexton teeing up an important penalty, it was obvious that Ireland were ready to make a switch.
But O’Gara came onto the Croke Park pitch ahead of schedule and for several moments neither man appeared to know what was going to happen next.
With O’Gara on the field, Sexton made as if to exit, but then realised that he was expected to take the penalty.
The 24-year-old Leinster man duly landed that, at which point he made way for his replacement from Munster.
Some in the crowd felt the Irish officials got it badly wrong and that O’Gara’s incursion while his rival for the Irish fly-half’s jersey — who had already missed two pots at the posts — was lining up his kick had been hugely embarrassing.
“We had called for the replacement to be made before the penalty was awarded, so then it was a case of when he was or he wasn’t allowed on,” Kidney said.
“Ronan is a top class out-half to be leaving on our replacements bench all the time. I thought he deserved a go. Jonathan, I thought, was excellent. He made a good break for our try in the first half and took a good conversion.
“When the change was coming up he saw it coming and he showed great courage to hold on for the place kick.”
Flanker David Wallace said the match was more had proved that margin between success and failure at this level is very slender.
“Today it just went against us,” he said. “It was a very tight game and we just gave them too many chances to kick points, keep the pressure on us and pull away at times.”