Normally unflappable Declan ‘sure, wouldn’t we prefer to play them four times’ Kidney is becoming embattled. How do we know? He’s coming out with a lot of silly stuff.
Test Rugby vs. Provincial Rugby
It’s becoming Deccie’s must-say piece in any interview to mention just what a collosal step up international rugby is from provincial rugby. It was the first thing he said in his Sky pre-match interview on Saturday morning. As Demented Mole highlighed in this excellent piece, he even described the Barbarians match as ‘an unforgiving environment’. It’s pretty obvious why Deccie is so keen to pedal this line: at a time when the Irish side are struggling badly, Leinster are carving up Europe, and Ulster aren’t exactly chumps either. Okay, Munster are having a tough time of it, but they can still contribute quality players to the national team. Leinster playing such an attractive, exciting and winning brand of rugby makes Declan’s coaching look moribund by comparison. The way he’s talking you’d swear Leinster’s success was detrimental to the Irish cause, and that provincial and test rugby were entirely different sports. It doesn’t wash.
The New Caps
We had two debutants at tight-head, it is a pity that we have to be using the Irish team to give them experience. In fairness, they went out there and gave it their best shot and they will be better for it.
Deccie’s post match comments, which can be read in full here, stepped up the sense of a man on the defensive. It’s a pretty thinly veiled dig at the provinces, in particular Ulster, for daring to play a non-Irish tighthead.
Where to begin? With the fact that the IRFU have to endorse every signing that comes into the provinces? Or by pointing out that Loughney racked up hours of gametime, including Heineken Cup starts with Connacht, while Fitzpatrick’s season was hampered by missing five months through injury? Maybe by recalling that Kidney could have picked Loughney for the Ireland A game in February, but went with Munster reserve Stephen Archer instead? How about by rewinding to Autumn 2010, when Mike Ross had established himself as the starting Leinster tighthead, but got zero minutes of gametime over four matches, while John Hayes was able to pad out his impressive caps total, despite being obviously no longer capable of playing at that level.
Kidney has had plenty of chances to give a number of players on the fringes of the team test experience before now, but passed the opportunity up at every turn. The sprightly Ian Madigan is at home kicking his heels. To turn around and claim he’s the only one developing players is absurd.
For us to be really focused for this, would have cost in the season earlier on. We would have had to have given up a number of other things. I don’t think the appetite is there for us to give up those other things to prepare for this tour in the way that you would have really, really needed to. That’s fine.
The digs at the provinces keep on coming. He’s here all week, folks. Those awful Leinster players, getting to the Heineken Cup final and having the gall to actually win the thing! Couldn’t they have taken a three month sabbatical like the Welsh provinces? This is really risible stuff. It’s not like the Heineken Cup schedule sneaks up on you – he would have budgeted for exactly how long he’d have the team in camp from the start of the season. Besides, the New Zealand players were playing Super 15 up to last week, and it was their first game since the World Cup final. Exactly how long does he want the players in camp for anyway?
The IRFU player welfare programme gives Kidney the sort of control over his players’ exposure that other national coaches can only dream of. Kidney appears to be claiming that Heineken Cup success is no longer a positive thing, and would prefer to see the provinces take it easy between March and May. This is a particularly strange state of affairs.
You have to admire the gusto with which Farrelly hoovers it all up. At one point he even describes the Irish system as one ‘which favours provincial success over national development’, when in fact the entire club-province-country pyramid has been precision designed (and widely praised for it) to do exactly the opposite and put the national team as the top priority.
Kidney’s cutting an increasingly embattled, defensive figure, despite his army of media apologists continuing to search for reasons to explain it all away and pin the blame anywhere but on him (although Thornley is showing minor signs of disgruntlement). It’s a most dispiriting state of affairs.