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Tyrone Howe: Ireland’s loss could be Ulster’s gain in the long term Kidney plan

While the debate still rages about what went wrong against France, it is clear that Ireland’s next fixture at England’s rugby HQ presents another huge challenge.

Despite two victories it is difficult to gauge what state the English team is in, in terms of both rugby and mentally.

Given England’s poor showing the many detractors have certainly not gone away. However, one should not underestimate the level of pressure that Ireland will be under.

Twickenham is never an easy place to visit, no matter what the circumstances or form of either side, so Ireland will have to be back firing on all cylinders to ensure that the 2010 Six Nations does not become a tournament to forget.

Declan Kidney does not have a record of making dramatic changes, and if we buy into the notion that one defeat does not make Ireland a bad team, then he is likely to stand by the vast majority of the current XV.

However, there is a strong argument that, now with the chance of a Grand Slam gone, Ireland need to be preparing in earnest for Rugby World Cup 2011 which is now only eighteen months away.

If Kidney were to go down this route, Ulster Rugby might well profit. Clearly, Rory Best will replace Jerry Flannery and this gives the hooker a real opportunity to become the solid first choice.

As long as his darts are spot on, the main reason would be Best’s contribution to the scrum, which is the key weakness in the team.

Does Ireland continue to try to mask its deficiencies in this area or give Tom Court, Best and Cian Healy time to merge their strengths and work on their weaknesses over a period of time? Surely, the latter is the better option.

While Andrew Trimble should make an immediate return, depending on what type of game Kidney wants Ireland to play, Paddy Wallace might well come back into the frame. Paddy’s distribution skills are superior to Gordon D’arcy’s in terms of bringing the outside backs into play.

This could have a positive impact on Tommy Bowe, who is like a forgotten man at the moment. Unlike the Ospreys who maximise his talent, Ireland currently leave Bowe stranded with little to run off. With only one current Ulster player in the starting XV in Paris, things might look a lot different in ten days time.

Belfast Telegraph


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