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Kidney pleased with progress

Declan Kidney insists Ireland's World Cup preparations are on course even though they will be playing to avoid a whitewash in their warm-up programme on Saturday.

The Irish host England at Aviva Stadium knowing that defeat will have seen them lose each of the Tests arranged in preparation for New Zealand. Kidney accepts the sequence of results has been poor but is adamant his plans are beginning to fall into place.

"I'm disappointed we've lost the last three matches but I know we can get ourselves right," said Kidney. "We decided to have four warm up internationals because in the past it's taken us a while to get into our stride. I believe we'll get into our stride now, but there are a few bits of the jigsaw that must come together and that's what we're trying to achieve."

He added: "I feel we're getting better every week and I expect the players to give everything because there's no other way to wear a green jersey. We're playing England in Dublin, that's all the matters."

Ireland's performances have drawn strong criticism, particularly in the wake of the 26-22 defeat by France last Saturday. They were thrashed out of sight by Les Bleus, whatever the scoreline suggests, with their naive play in the backs the biggest source of complaint.

"When we don't win matches there will be criticism. That's part and parcel of it," said Kidney. "The fact there's so much interest in the Ireland team and so many people have opinions is great. That's what makes it what it is.

"We know where we are. It's been so busy there hasn't been much time for anything else other than getting ourselves right."

Ireland face England without centre Brian O'Driscoll and flanker Sean O'Brien.

O'Driscoll suffered a 'stinger' to his shoulder against France and has been omitted as a precautionary measure with his participation in the World Cup opener against the United States on September 11 not in doubt.

A further source of anxiety is a knee injury incurred by European player of the year O'Brien in the second of the two defeats by France. The bulldozing O'Brien - undoubtedly Ireland's best performer since January - is likely to face the USA.


From Belfast Telegraph