Embattlement

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.

The Provinces

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.

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20 Comments

  1. Great article, pretty much bang on. The only thing I read differently is ‘For us to be really focused for this, would have cost in the season earlier on’… I took that as him meaning he would have ‘experimented’ (i.e. picked form players!) in the Six Nations instead? I don’t know if you’ve been reading the meeja down here (especially NZ Herald) but there’s ominous talk coming out of the ABs re: what might happen this weekend…

    • I wondered that myself, but then what exactly would we have been sacrificing? Two wIns against Scotland and Italy? So I think it was more to do with the provinces getting to the Heiny Cup final.

      • Stevo

         /  June 12, 2012

        It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? To us it was two wins against Scotland and Italy. To Deccie it’s three great results, a tragic last-minute defeat and just one of those days against England. Sure we were the bounce of a ball and a tight-head prop (the fault of the provinces) away from winning the championship!

  2. Ultra Sur

     /  June 12, 2012

    I think it’s interesting that Deccie, at one stage, had four Munster players in the Irish backline when we were chasing the game. Y’know, that electrifying Munster backline that’s been ripping it up all season…

  3. Ciaran

     /  June 12, 2012

    Yeah, if only the provinces had gone out of the Heineken Cup nice and early, we might have only lost to New Zealand by 15 points. Well worth it I’m sure we all agree.

  4. Domhnall

     /  June 12, 2012

    DK’s statement about having two debutants at tighthead is just strange in that it makes no sense, in particular, with respect to what he follows up with. People that play their first game in a team are by definition ‘debutants’ – this situation was totally within DKs power to deal with and has absolutely nothing to do with provincial level games played/not played. As pointed out he played John Hayes and persisted with Buckley (spot the trend?) at the expense of other provincial players. It is his fault that we had two debutants on the field on Saturday, full stop.

  5. Shrek

     /  June 12, 2012

    Also from Deccie’s post match talk:
    “I know everybody expects success, but I’ve been involved in making teams before and it just doesn’t happen overnight.”
    If I didn’t know better, i’d think he had just taken over the Irish team after the World Cup. He’s had four full years now and we’re no closer to evolving a coherent attacking plan. Our offense is being planned by a commitee of four guys, none of whom are specialised backs coaches. Most of the burden seems to be on Les Kiss and as a result our defence, which used to be the best in the 6Ns, has declined over the last 12 months.
    Also, I wonder if Munster were making it to the HC final, would we would be hearing about the need for provincial sacrifice earlier in the year?

    • Agreed, Shrek, that was another quotation that could have been added to the list. Someone on LF pointed out that when Deccie started the job we were 8th in the world rnakings and needing a good autumn series to hold on to our World Cup seeding, and now, four full years later, we’re in exactly the same position.

  6. Anonymous

     /  June 12, 2012

    excellent read – and the persistence of this ‘international being a step up from club level’ excuse is one of my great bugbears. If this is the case (and I think that in spite of the advances in the club game over the last decade, it probably is) it applies equally to Ireland’s opponents – rather than being something which somehow uniquely applies to Ireland, which seems to be the implication..

    • Thanks Anon. Very nicely put. To take it a step further, we are often told that the provinces get to train and play together for longer than the national team, which gives them more familiarity with the systems / each other / whatever. But surely that applies to the opposition too! It’s nuts.

  7. Excellent read – the excuse that international rugby is a step up from club level is a personal bugbear. If this is the case (and on balance, in spite of the progress made at club level in the last decade, it probably is) it applies equally to Ireland’s opponents – it isn’t something that uniquely impedes Ireland, which is always the implication.

    I think that Kidney is feeling the heat big time…

  8. Vijay Singh

     /  June 13, 2012

    Just as a matter of interest. What kind of cosy position could Diclin pick up down south once he finishes up as Irish coach next season? He does seem to have more of a Irish civil service / Kevin Cardiff type approach to management than say Woodward’s more organised/entrepreneurial style. All the clientelism / favouritism towards Munster has to be for a reason.

    As for Farrelly, maybe you could do a piece that details his past for those who don’t know about it. He rarely “reports” on anything but prefers to offer an opinion and write PR pieces for his buddies Rog and James Coughlan. Bob Woodward he ain’t.

  9. Shielded blog bullshit

     /  June 16, 2012

    Hope you are suitably embarrassed, Kidney is not the IRFU, he is fighting the IRFU, maybe if you logged out and talked to people as opposed to tweeting/emailing/facebooking them, you would be more knowledgeable, you online, blogging clown

    • Steve

       /  June 16, 2012

      A few questions for you there, anonymous hero. Why would he be embarrassed? How is Kidney fighting the IRFU? In what way does actual face-to-face communication convey better information than the online version? Does Deccie’s smirking cute-hoorism reflect the traditional verbal methodology of the Real Rugby Supporter? Do you think anyone with a blog spends significantly less time talking to other people than those without?

  10. Shielded blog bullshit

     /  June 16, 2012

    Howya, is it ‘Steve’?.In answer to your final question, eh, yes. The ‘real’ rugby supporter should have seen Kidney win an U19 World Cup, two Heineken Cups, a first Grand Slam in 61 years, beat the Tri Nations champions in the southern hemisphere in the World Cup,, come within a Nigel Owens travesty of beating the best team in the world with an injury ruined squad and then call him ‘Kidders’

    • Steve

       /  June 16, 2012

      That didn’t really answer any of my questions.

      • Shielded blog bullshit

         /  June 16, 2012

        Ah, don;t want to fight, even as a Dub think he gets a hard time and he has to deal with a system that does not prioritise Irish players and allows Paddy Jackson to stay at home rather than go to U20 WC. Think he is a decent man with a savage CV and though there is a lot of intelligent comment here, don’t like the cheap shots like ‘Kidders’

  11. Steve

     /  June 16, 2012

    Shielded blog bullshit, we’re all aware of the success Declan Kidney has had, and while there are people out there who play down his achievements, the guys who write this blog are both fair to him and extremely knowledgeable about the game. If they question him or seem frustrated then that only reflects how a lot of us feel. I don’t know where you have got this thing about cheap shots or ‘Kidders’, I can’t see where he has been referred to as anything other than Kidney, Declan or Deccie. As for the system, we prioritise our own players more than any other country as far as I can tell, and Kidney has more control over his players than the other international managers.

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