Je Ne Regrette Rien… Except Maybe These

The IRFU pulled the plug on the Declan Kidney era yesterday, announcing that he would not be offered a new contract.  It draws a line under another managerial tenure that has been a distinctly mixed bag.  Kidney’s career as head coach can neatly be split into two bundles, one succesful, one not; the unbeaten claendar year in 2009, and everything since then.  We’ll always have the memories of Ireland’s long overdue Grand Slam, but beyond that, it was a long, slow and often painful slide towards the fiasco that was this year’s Six Nations.  Everyone knew the end was coming, except Deccie himself it seems, and the only surprise was that he didn’t resign and instead made the IRFU effectively sack him.

Sports coaches on the brink, movie stars in decline, those in power falling from grace: they all have a habit of telling you they wouldn’t change a thing in spite of the grisly endgame. We don’t know, but Kidney will probably never publicly admit to having made grievous errors in his tenure as Ireland head coach, but here are five mistakes that, privately at least, he’ll probably rue.

Paris, 2010. Paddy Wallace’s selection on the bench to cover the outside backs

Following Ireland’s stellar 2009 calendar year, the notoriously hard trip to Paris was the biggest obstacle in their bid to repeat the trick with another Grand Slam. The team was largely unchanged, but the bench had an odd look to it with the rapidly emerging Johnny Sexton now in the 22 as reserve fly-half, but Paddy Wallace retained as cover for the back division.

Ireland started brightly, causing the French worries with Gordon D’arcy looking threatening; indeed he was very unlucky not to score following a clean break, when his chip over the full back bounced oddly and out of harm’s way.  But things took a turn for the worse when Rob Kearney went off injured.  With Paddy Wallace the only available cover in reserve, a lot of shuffling around was required.  Earls moved to full-back, Wallace came on at 12 and D’arcy was shifted to the wing, where he was notably less effective.  Ireland’s attack was blunted and the French moved through the gears, eventually running out impressive 33-10 winners.

Symptomatic of wider malaise?  Yes.  In truth, Kidney never really developed the art of using his bench.  As coach of Munster he generally kept changes to a minimum; in the 2008 Heineken Cup final he brought on only two replacements.  As test rugby became increasingly a 22-man (and then 23-man) sport, Kidney struggled to adapt.  The bizarre (non) use of Sean Cronin as reserve hooker exemplified this.

November 2010. Failure to select Mike Ross and Sean O’Brien

Following a ho-hum Six Nations in 2010, and with the World Cup on the radar, the November test series looked like a chance for Kidney to refresh his team, which was now showing signs of rust. The tour of Australia and New Zealand in June was notable for the number of players selected – but most did well, and the team were far more competitive than expected given the injury carnage – four second-half tries while a man down against BNZ, then pushing Australia to the last bell meant the tour seemed like it would be something that could be built upon.

South Africa were Ireland’s first opponents in November, but Kidney elected to remain more or less true to his Grand Slammers of 2009, albeit with Sexton and Reddan selected at half-back.  Over the course of the four matches, Kidney stuck rigidly to his template.  It meant that Sean O’Brien – explosive with ball-in-hand for Leinster in the weeks leading up to the series – was limited to one start, in the Samoa game, and couldn’t even get ahead of an out-of-form Denis Leamy to win a place on the bench for the real matches.

There was also an urgent need to promote new tightheads, given that John Hayes was now in steep decline.  Kidney pinned his hopes on Tony Buckley – occasionally destructive in the loose, but a poor scrummager and with a tendency towards laziness – and when Buckley got injured looked to Tom Court and John Hayes to back him up.  It looked a strange decision not to even consider Leinster’s Mike Ross, now a mainstay of the province’s first team and a technician in the set piece, and so it proved.  Ross saw not one minute of action, but as the season unfolded and Buckley’s lack of technique proved hugely expensive for Munster, Ross found himself first-and-only-choice for the following Six Nations, while O’Brien was also belatedly promoted to the team.  The two players went from outside the match-day squad to lynchpins, more by accident than design.  It showed a lack of foresight, canny management and joined-up thinking.

Symptomatic of a wider malaise?  Too often Kidney seemed unwilling to promote talented players ahead of ‘his boys’, even when it looked obvious to outsiders that the incumbent was woefully inferior.  The debacle repeated itself with O’Callaghan / Ryan in 2012 and ROG / Jackson / Madigan in 2013.

RWC 2011; selection of ROG vs. Wales

In the 2011 World Cup, Ireland stood on the cusp of greatness.  They had memorably seen off Australia and dismantled a poor Italy side with little fuss.  The tournament had opened up for them, with Northern hemisphere teams lying in wait in the quarter- and semi finals.  There was just one slight problem.  Their premier fly-half, Johnny Sexton, had a dose of the wobbles with placed ball.  It led Kidney to dial 021-4-RADGE for the Italy game, and the Munster fly-half performed consummately.

The question was whether to stick with ROG for the quarter-final, against an eye-catchingly in-form Wales.  The Welsh team’s blitz defence and unwavering determination to bully O’Gara had made things difficult for ROG in the recent past.  Many expected Kidney to revert to the team which had beaten Australia, with Reddan and Sexton dictating attack from 9 and 10.  But he stuck with O’Gara and Murray.  Wales read Ireland perfectly, ankle-chopping their marauding flankers and isolating ROG, cutting him off from his backline with a super-fast blitz defence.  The chance of a lifetime was lost, and if Kidney could wind back the clock to have one game again, we suspect it would be this one.

Symptomatic of a wider malaise?  Yes, an inability to pick correct houres for courses.  In all of Deccie’s tenure, we never got the impression he picked teams with specific opposition traits in mind.  His first XV was his first XV no matter what.  ROG was the man to keep a mediocre Italy at arm’s reach, but his selection was exactly what the Welsh team would have wanted to see.  Kidney had to pick Johnny Sexton and hope his kicking woes were behind him (he slotted a touchline conversion at the end of the Italy match, so they may well have been).

Post RWC: failure to replace Gaffney as attack coach

If Ireland’s world cup was anti-climactic, at least it wasn’t an abject failure, and Ireland had done much right, not least in tactically outmanoeuvring the Aussies and their choke-tackle-led defence.  But in the aftermath of the loss against Wales, it was largely agreed upon that Ireland were lacking dynamism when it came to ball-in-hand attack, where Plans A, B and C consisted of getting Ferris and O’Brien to truck the ball up.  Their attack coach, Alan Gaffney, whose sum contribution appeared to be the Randwick Loop, was finishing up in any case and it looked like the perfect opportunity to bring in a new voice, with new ideas and given a remit to get Ireland’s attacking game up to speed.

Instead, management went down the bizarre route of placing a committee in charge of attack, with Kiss, Deccie himself and Mark Tainton, the kicking coach, taking over the role.  If it looked a bit like a patched up non-solution, then that’s exactly what it was.  The result was as you might expect – Ireland continued to look laboured with ball in hand.  The 2012 Six Nations was another failure, finishing off with the Twickenham Debacle.  Brian O’Driscoll was suitably concerned to air his grievances in public, saying the players didn’t really know who was in charge of Ireland’s attack, in what was a rare shot across the bows from the captain.

Symptomatic of a wider malaise? perhaps Kidney’s greatest failing was his failure to deliver a recognisable attacking gameplan for Ireland.  His grand slam was won by strangling the life out of opponents and an aggressive kick and chasing game, but once the breakdown rules (sorry, interpretations) were changed to encourage a more ball-in-hand style of play, he never successfully adapted.  Ireland’s style seemed to vary wildly from match to match, at times making them look uncoached.  Every so often they would appear to click into shape, only to revert to mush in the following match.  Ultimately, Kidney’s Ireland lacked identity, a way of playing the game that they owned.

The Entire 2013 Six Nations

2013’s was the last Six Nations of Deccie’s contract, and in effect he was playing for a new deal.  The superb performance in beating Argentina had set Ireland up nicely, but from first to last the campaign was a shambles in a way that nobody could predict.  Sure, injuries didn’t help, but Kidney and his team had a horrendous championship.  The trouble began with the appointment of a new captain, Jamie Heaslip.  It looked a positive step, designed to cash in on the momentum generated in November, but was dreadfully handled, not least when it emerged how upset BOD was at having been demoted.

Despite a morale-boosting and impressive win against Wales, things quickly unravelled, sparked by injury to Johnny Sexton.  So abysmal was ROG’s performance as reserve that Kidney elected to throw Paddy Jackson into the starting team for the next game, against Scotland.  Trouble is, Jackson hadn’t place-kicked in four weeks and management had made a blunder in not ensuring he got some practice the week before against Zebre.  In the event, Jackson missed three kicks and Ireland lost.

It got to the stage where every press release issued by management led to backtracking the following day.  When ROG was omitted from the squad (justifiably) for the following game, the next 48 hours were spent assuring the nation that he wasn’t being retired, when clearly he was. Sexton was named against Italy, only to be ruled out for a month shortly after the presser had concluded. The entire camp seemed to be imploding.

The final blow came in Rome, where Italy won 22-15 against an Ireland team that looked rudderless and without any sort of gameplan – had Italy been any less nervous, they could have won by 30.  The only player to try and make things happen was Ian Madigan, whom management had studiously ignored for the previous 12 months.  It just about said it all.

Symptomatic of: failure to plan for future when ROG was visibly fading.  Anyone with eyes in their head could see that ROG had been in decline since the 2011 World Cup, but management persisted in putting off the day they break Jackson or Madigan into the squad.  It resulted in Ireland having two fly halves with a single cap between them in the squad for the game against France. Had the re-build been conducted in the 2012 Six Nations, summer tour or November series, Ireland might have developed to the point where they could easily have managed the injuries sustained – postponing it meant blooding debutants left, right and centre.

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56 Comments

  1. mikebrad

     /  April 3, 2013

    all very good points lads. another thing that always frustrated me (and links in to a number of your points) was players being asked to play in positions that they were kind of good in but not the ones they were best in. this led to our confused back row, keith earls playing across most of the back line and younger or in form players not getting a chance.

  2. This has been gone over many times before, but the continuing selection of Buckley, the Sexton to 12 sham, the refusal to start Reddan and Sexton together, the constant kicking game, the lack of a Plan B in this year’s 6N beside ‘give it to SOB’, not bringing Jackson/Madigan to NZ last Summer and the treatment of Paddy Wallace on the same tour will also go down as huge failings of the Kidney era.

    There’s a lot of revisionism from the media and commentators in the last few days, perhaps not wanting to dance on a man’s ‘grave’. I can see why, but along with the 2009 GS, let’s not forget reasoned analysis of the poor selection and management of players that peppered this reign too.

  3. Ultra Sur

     /  April 3, 2013

    Great piece as always, gents. One minor point that always rankles when anyone mentions the WC quarter – they went for touch with a huge amount of kickable penalties. The only excuse possible for RADGE! to have been picked was his ability off the tee, given his complete inability to tackle marauding Welsh backs, lack of running game etc and Sexton’s prolonged yips.

    To make up for the clear defensive liability at 10, Kidney did his usual – pick a tackling scrumhalf. But with TOL gone, Murray had to be picked – a player clearly not up to it yet and who was painfully slow in delivery if the pressure came on, which it did in spades. This slow pass in turn inhibited the attacking game even moreso than just Radge’s inability to run. So in order to get a reliable place kicker on the field, we ceded huge ground in defense (versus Jamie Roberts and other huge Welsh backs) and attack, where an isolated O’Gara was easy pickings for Phillips, Warburton et al.

    But it’s ok, with the reliable place kicker on the field, we were able to spurn every kickable penalty for the first 30 and kick to the corner….

    A tactical masterclass by Kidney all in all. He should have been sacked then but of course the IRFU had learned buckets from the EOS debacle and awarded him a contract…. before the World Cup.

  4. Ultra Sur

     /  April 3, 2013

    And another one while I’m at it about the kicking coach.

    Sexton was kicking pre world cup warm-ups at about 70-75% – a bit below international standard but when his confidence was in, he was a 6/7 kicker. After the 2011 Heineken Cup, Sexton’s kicking style was changed from the usual build up to a short, stabbing motion. He was never comfortable with the latter, his stats fell off a cliff and it ended up costing him his place. However, you mention his conversion from the sideline against Italy – it was in that match that he had reverted to his old style (clearly noticeable at the time) that he still persists with today.

    I don’t know if it was Tainton that came up with that “solution” to Sexton’s kicking yips but it changed the course of our world cup irrevocably and that’s aside from the fact that Ireland’s overall kicking has been woeful. Quite what he did to get part of the attack remit is baffling.

  5. Connachtexile

     /  April 3, 2013

    Good article. I would add the match we lost to Scotland which cost us the triple crown when he refused to bring on Cronin and Cullen when our line-out imploded instead only bringing on a prop which didn’t help us at all in that area.

  6. To be fair a lot of the points being made in the comments are easily said in hindsight. The biggest mistake Kidney made for me was the selection of Earls at 13 and not Cave. Earls career at 13 is pretty much a microcosm for Kidneys career as Ireland coach, started out well but ended badly.

    Buckley was never selected when we had the option of putting two props on the bench they seem to think he was better equipped to cover two sides of the scrum then Court, pretty harsh to criticise him for that selection.

  7. Any way the Whiff would clear up the kicking plan? Zebo, Kearney, Bowe all excellent at the kick chase. Sexton/ROg good at bombs and Murray decent. We weren’t going to be able to play a carrying based game b/c pack was too powder puff for me sense November.

  8. Peter Willis

     /  April 3, 2013

    Mental image of the WOC boys … Small with narrow shoulders, pale skinned and paunchy from too much time at the screen consuming ill-advised quantities of Doritos and Red Bull, receding hair line complementing rimmed glasses for owlish appearance. Eyes habitually squinting but becoming glassy and glazed whenever an actual player comes near, no hands on experience of playing or coaching rugby,hence no AIL heritage or interest, but since began attending provincial matches in the early 2000s, obsessive study and pontificating on the professional games has filled a void. Limited social skills due to awkwardness at plain looks and lack of interaction with women but a giant online where the ability to gloat and sneer creates a sense of superiority and omnipotence – exaggerated by the mutual back-slapping of a small group of other bitter non-achievers – regardless of a weak sense of humour that cannot stretch beyond pot shots and exclamation marks.
    Removed from reality and the fact that what they are engaged in is, essentially, cyber bullying.
    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, blog.

    • Joe

       /  April 3, 2013

      And those who can’t even do that, comment on blogs.

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  April 3, 2013

      Ouch. Quite harsh.
      Some partial truths that could be thrown at nearly all modern Irish rugby writers. Print or Blog.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  April 3, 2013

        I hear Conor George easily squats 350 kg for a warm up set. George Hook apparently leg presses 700kg every day before breakfast.

    • Bowe Gathers

       /  April 3, 2013

      Boo to your complete lack of imagination Mr Willis. Snide, sneering, self important cyber bullying indeed.

    • Connachtexile

       /  April 3, 2013

      Your a troll Willis

    • Jimbob

       /  April 3, 2013

      Mental image of Peter Willis… Declan kidney????

    • Manga's League

       /  April 3, 2013

      I hear ‘Egg’ has a massive wanger though?

    • The irony of this is a wonder to behold. Someone attempts to label as ad-hominem keyboard warrior trash perhaps the most literate commentary (even if you don’t always agree with them) on Irish rugby at the moment. And he decides to do this not by engaging with their arguments and showing where they might be wrong, but instead with.. yep, ad-hominem keyboard warrior trash.

      I wouldn’t mind only there wasn’t even an exclamation mark in their post!

      And not that the lads need any defence, but with three – or is it four yet? – kids between them, I don’t think they’re having any difficulty with the ladies!

      • zdm

         /  April 3, 2013

        Aye but they don’t know ANYTHING about the AIL so the kids are probably someone elses – after all, Doritos make you impotent. That’s why pro rugby players don’t eat them.

    • abitofshoepie

       /  April 3, 2013

      Ouch indeed…..could well be true, but it is exactly some of these characteristics that make a good blog. If the guys were in the gym working on the guns or chasing ladies all day we wouldn’t get our almost daily article and would have to resort to reading the rugby ‘analysis’ in the Irish papers. Keep up the good work chaps….

      • abitofshoepie

         /  April 3, 2013

        …and stay away from those Doritos..

    • Michael

       /  April 3, 2013

      Peter Willis. You sir are an asshole.

      So if you haven’t played in the AIL or professionally, you can’t comment no matter how well written or articulate? Hows about you debate the relevant points they make instead of being a troll.

      One of the biggest problems the IRFU have at the moment is that there are too many amateur blazers with that attitude. Because they were able to hold up a scrum 25 years ago in some bog near butt-fuck county Meath or wherever, and could drink 15 pints on Saturday afternoon and drive home, they feel important. Almost every sport has benefited massively from sports scientists and other ‘geeks’ over the last 15 years, and its the shit kicker attitude from trolls like yourself and others in the Irish media that are holding us back.

      And yes, before you ask, I did play in the AIB. It was as irrelevant to professional rugby then as it is now.

      Dick.

      • Manga's League

         /  April 3, 2013

        You played in the bank Dick? Good work!
        Who are these ‘amateur balzer’?
        He didnt say you needed to play in the AIL…merely commented on the fact that they don’t seem to have any affiliation or interest in it….I for one enjoy an article on Lansdowne’s dominant season which has resulted in their out-half picking up a contract with Connacht (relevance to the professional game there perhaps?)
        I dont agree with Peter Willis’ (tongue in cheek) style but he has got a point.
        WOCs last number of articles pretty much read as follows:
        -Kidney was useless!
        -Munster are useless!
        -Australia have a load of sevens!
        -Kidney should retire!
        -Kidney and Ireland are clueless!
        -Leinster have lost all their backs!
        -Womes rugby…fair play to it!
        -Ireland are poor in the second half! (this was actually a good point)
        -Kidney is a moron!
        -Kidney was lucky to win the GS but an idiot to lose the rest!

      • Red Mist

         /  April 3, 2013

        Gotta agree with Manga here lads. There is a distinct provincial bias to this article.
        WOC just can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that Kidney is the greatest ever Irish Coach, and he’s a Munster man!

        Get over it!

      • Manga's League

         /  April 3, 2013

        Red mist I like you and your positive reinforcement of all things manga…Munster Abu

      • Manga's League

         /  April 3, 2013

        You’re working for mother now boy!

    • Leinsterlion

       /  April 3, 2013

      A bit harsh there, do you even lift?

    • coreilly

       /  April 3, 2013

      @peter Willis if you can’t appreciate a decent analysis of the game then go back to the info fuckhead

      • Ok everyone, thanks for rushing to our defence from Willis’ trolling. Let’s try and keep the tone up, folks. Willis, if you don’t agree with our points, as many have pointed out, please tackle us on the points in the piece instead of random pot-shots. Comments like the one above will be deleted in future. We’d ask the same of Manga and Red Mist. Arguments like ‘Kidney is a Munster man and you can’t handle it’ and ‘Munster Abu’ are a bit wearying to be honest. Please critique us on the points in the piece you don’t agree with! We take your valid point that the AIL is a gap in our coverage.

        Not to be making excuses, but try to remember that we are not full-time rugby journalists who are paid to watch rugby matches and report on them, but ordinary fans who pay our way to any games we go to, have family commitments etc. Where we feel we have insufficient depth of knowledge, we have outsourced pieces to those with greater expertise than ourselves. If you were interested in writing a guest piece on Lansdowne’s triumph and the success of their fly-half (which is most definitely of interest and relevance) we would gladly publish it.

      • Manga's League

         /  April 4, 2013

        Fair points…I just get a bit of a laugh out of this whole comments section thing. If anyone here is 100% serious then I have little faith in humanity. “Munster Abu” was obviously sarcasm. Your blog is your blog and that is fair enough but putting it up online opens you up to criticism. I am neither literate enough or patient enough to write an article for you unfortunately.

  9. Bowe Gathers

     /  April 3, 2013

    Surely Kidney’s failure to end his own career when the game was up (after Hamilton, after this 6N, after dropping to 9th, take your pick) is syptomatic of his treatment of the team.The golden generation could have been retired, reputations intact, at any point post 09. Given their service a big send off would have been required (Babas games, big press ads, public weeping etc) but that’s easier that watching their careers being so thoroughly tarnished. An ignominious exit for a man who oversaw the peak then slow death of our golden generation.

    On a completely different tack, I wonder whether if any poster here would have taken three years of dross in exchange for a grand slam for O’Driscoll, RoG et al? Hypothetical genies lamp etc, but personally I probably would have bit his hand off at the time. Doing it once then being awful is infinitely better than being perpetual nearly men.

    • @Completebore

       /  April 3, 2013

      I think the issue with the genie’s lamp bargain is the order. If it was three years of rubbish followed by a Grand Slam it would feel like a worthwhile journey of incremental improvement. In the order that it happened it feels like a bit of luck (allied to good players and coaching) followed by a shambles.

  10. Rory'Okane_Raz_

     /  April 3, 2013

    Dropping Trimble after the second test in New Zealand where he was excellent in defense and replacing him with Earls was a strange one for me also. As Earls was run over at will by the all-blacks, that decision coupled with the mystifying selection of Wallace meant New Zealand were going to trounce us even before the ball was kick-off. The treatment of form players has really been the point i find most unforgivable firstly with ross and O’Brien and then later with Henry,Tuhoy and Madigan.

  11. Scrumdog

     /  April 3, 2013

    Before a new coach is appointed and the ‘outside consultant’ paid for the ‘global search’, the IRFU might consider hiring a Director of Rugby (Conor O’Shea) to overhaul the amateur era National Team Review Group and replace it with professional rugby personnel and then begin the process of looking for new coaches to interview.
    Both Declan Kidney and Eddie O’Sullivan should be kept involved in Irish Rugby in some capacity so as not to lose the immense pool of rugby intellect that would be available to the new NTRG.

    • Len

       /  April 3, 2013

      According to the papers this morning the IRFU would like to have the director of rugby in place first but feel this is unlikely to happen.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  April 3, 2013

      “Both DK and EOS should be kept involved in Irish rugby in some capacity so as not to lose the immense pool of rugby intellect that would be available to the new NTRG.” Yeah, I know for a fact the Old Belvo minis have a vacancy and would love to have either on board. The fact that no one outside of the hallowed smoke filled corridors of the IRFU would keep those clowns involved speaks volumes.
      DK’s only overseas excursion didnt happen, EOS coached in the rugby hotbed that is the US and Connacht preferred the rugby genius that Pat Lam isnt. Both are rugby dinosaurs and until they succeed overseas they have nothing to offer top level Irish rugby. A top level S15 coach is ahead of the curve in terms of knowledge and modern rugby thinking then either EOS or DK. Both are busted flushes until further notice.

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  April 3, 2013

        Rumor has it EOS will eventually take a position with one of the AIL clubs next season.

  12. zdm

     /  April 3, 2013

    Scrumdog, I’m thinking of getting T-shirts and key rings for the Please Hire a Director of Rugby Society.

    It may just be the post-6N hangover talking but I can’t shake the notion that EoS would have got more out of the current Golden Generation than DK – ironic to think that a predominatly attack & backs orientated coach presided over our most dominant pack in recent memory and a defense/forward orientated coach worked with one of our most exciting backs divisions.

  13. Whilst I agree with a lot of this blog – I do also think we should be putting a spotlight on the debacle that is the IRFU management…

    1. Giving Kidney a contract before the RWC
    2. Player Welfare Management programme that the players can’t stand (Sexton for e.g.) and is moot as to whether it has benefitted us at all
    3. Lack of a unified Ireland playing strategy that is “enforced” on the provinces (with a bit of wriggle room for the provincial coaches to vary slightly)
    4. Lack of highly qualified, experienced Irish coaches in the provinces

    I’m sure there’s more but they’re my bug-bearers!

    • Jimbob

       /  April 3, 2013

      The IRFU have a lot to answer for and need to get the finger out for whoever this new coach is going to be. They need;
      1. to offer the new coach a contract only until after the next WC should be offered and not reviewed until after the WC is completed.
      2. a DOR put in place to oversee all matters rugby but still manage not to step on the toes of coaches.
      3. bottle to sack a coach mid-contract if they’re not producing. I don’t expect or want premiership style sackings – a clear-cut set of targets need to be lined out for 6N, Summer/Autumn and WC, if these targets are not met then the coach isn’t producing. Obviously there will always be caveats with this but make it as black & white as possible and at least the coach will know whats required/expected of him.

  14. Leinsterlion

     /  April 3, 2013

    No longer will houses and pubs up and down the land be filled with dark thoughts and curses, heads thrown back in despair and wives and children hiding at the foul mood brought about by the incompetent turnip on the TV. Where once the name “Irish rugby” evoked invective, bile and children hiding under staircases, it will now evoke positive emotions and hopeful thoughts of future success.
    Spread the joyous news! The darkness and pestilence has fled the land! The frost has gone, the sun is shining and the crops are beginning to sprout! The lambs are gamboling in the fields! Hibernating animals are waking up, migrating birds are back! The summer is nearly upon us, and Declan Kidney is sacked! Irish rugby is saved, a Renaissance is upon us. The plague filled middle ages ruination of Irish rugby is over. We await a savior from down south to show us how to become artisans and frolic and thrive on the field, bringing joy to a nation.
    Spread the word! The plague is over, Kidney is sacked! Spread the word! The plague is over, Kidney is sacked! Spread the word! The plague is over, Kidney is sacked! Spread the word! The plague is over, Kidney is sacked!

  15. Peat

     /  April 3, 2013

    If I were to write my own article about Kidney – which I might do – I would concentrate most on his failure to develop a team of 23 and a squad that could absorb injuries.

    And my flagship example – pardon the provincial bias – would be Dan Tuohy.

    I think everyone would agree Ireland has a problem in the second row, one that’s been becoming obvious and more problematic with every injury to Paul O’Connell and year of decline for DOC, as the various replacement options haven’t really transpired. But look at Dan Tuohy’s international record, and you can see he hasn’t had the best chance to make that leap. He made his international debut in 2010 down under, then waited another two years for some more caps also down under. He’s not played a full international in Ireland, he’s not had a chance to make an impact against a more familiar opponent, he’s not had a chance to play two international windows in a row. Tuohy probably deserves some of the blame for that, his form hasn’t always been consistent, but it’s not like he’s ever received any backing and has missed out on international recognition when on form a fair few times anyway.

    And – as a matter of interest – the last time Ireland’s lineout went smoothly for a whole international window was Summer 2012. Would two jumper locks like Tuohy/Ryan, or POC/Ryan/Tuohy, offer an overall improvement on Mick McCarthy or DOC at TH lock and another jumper?

    Similar tales all over the Ireland team. The only reason I wouldn’t celebrate is the problems might – probably do – run a lot deeper than just Kidney…

    • seiko

       /  April 3, 2013

      Peat – I’ve been keeping an eye on Tuohy since he first took his chance against NZ in 2010. Since then he has either been injured or off form and he was a disgrace in NZ last 6Ns and very lucky to get a 2nd chance in the 2nd Test.
      Like McCarthy, he is a decent enough HC lock (but not as good as Mick O’Driscoll though).

      Denis Hickie put it well today: “When Ireland won the Grand Slam they used 21 players and this year they used 36 and Ireland doesn’t have 36 front-line international players.”

      Is Victor Costelloe a bit of an eejit – he is saying that Jake White would be interested in coaching Ireland?

      • Peat

         /  April 4, 2013

        The numbers excuse is overblown. Wales used 29. You need a squad to compete in international rugby and if Ireland don’t have one, then they are not good enough and you have to ask why.

      • Buccaneer

         /  April 5, 2013

        Fair point about Tuohy but he is only one of a plethora of examples

  16. The Irish blame game is a little like what goes after a Lions series. Who ever has the most players/coaches get blamed for the loss. Similar here really Kidney’s Ireland pretty much based on a Munster style and players for the most part, hence the “Munster bashing” but it is more coincidence then actual provincial bias. If Joe Schidmt takes over Leinster fans in the main will back him to the hill.. other provinces will turn much quicker and no doubt use provincial bias as a possible reason as to why a player isn’t being selected.

  17. MildyMac

     /  April 4, 2013

    Haven’t read all the comments, so this may have been commented on, but I’d like to make two points.

    1. One of the biggest blunders of Deccie’s reign was undoubtedly the late call up of PW to BNZ off of his beach in Portugal. Quite surprised this didn’t make your list. Never mind he should have travelled in the first place (Deccie only took one 12 – because he obviously doesn’t see Ferg as an option there – but 3 13’s!!!!), but to pluck a player who probably hadn’t trained other than to go on a jog on the beach for three weeks, fly them halfway around the world (including a 12 hour delay in Auckland airport), have bugger all recovery time from that ordeal, bugger all training with team mates and then start him in a text against BNZ!!!!!!

    Absolute madness. Whatever about not trusting Ferg at 12, surely even an untrustworthy 12 has to be the better option than that. Not in Deccieland. Truly truly bizarre reasoning, if indeed there was any.

    2. The man is gone, we are all glad of that, but the postmortems and critical analysis could do with a little time separation from the event. It kind of feels we are kicking the man on his way out of the door which is not good (not that there is anything wrong with the analysis).

    I feel that now there will be too much emotion from everyone and no doubt a higher level of shitfightery amongst the comments than if this article was posted in a few months time at seasons end.

    It’s important to learn from one’s (and others’) mistakes, and there is plenty to learn from Deccie’s reign, but that learning should be done on cold reflection, not warm.

  18. Cozz

     /  April 4, 2013

    Have to echo some of the comments above, hopefully the departure of Kidney will the put an end to one eyed obsession that has transfixed this blog and allowed other culprits to be excused their under-performance, namely the players and the IRFU:

    WIth the players last I checked they were professional rugby players, but from BOD and ROG (the prime culprits) the example has been the opposite. They have used the press mercilessly to advance and protect their agenda, at the expense of the team generally. Watching Ireland play I get the sense they are not a team, but a collection of cliques that would shatter if hit in the right way, an absence of trust if you will. I think we have a senior group of players that have grown old, stale and faintly contemptuous of each other. And it wasn’t necessarily provincial, witness BOD massively undermining Heaslip getting the captaincy by letting the world know how devastated he was and basically saying he was the best man for the job – and you know what? on this site he got a pass for it, “sure it was all Kidney’s fault anyway” for not placating Brian who may or may not be around next year. In naming Heaslip captain, Kidney’s tactic, as I see it, was to say to all players, that they all have to be leaders and make Jamie’s job easier, this was blown apart pretty quickly by these actions. The team died this year because we were missing the real enforcer-leaders Ferris, POC, Cullen, the sort of players who say
    “Yes I know the coach isn’t all that but you know what, don’t even think about playing below par, or not passing to player x, you will make me angry, you don’t want me angry”. Instead it seems there were a lot of little huddles.

    It seems to me that Kidney’s biggest weakness was not realising the power the GS gave him and remaining subservient to the IRFU. The IRFU has stated that the principal aim is the 6Nations followed by the WC, not the other way around. With that in mind every year is a crucial year “the 6N feeds the coffers and no way are we going to give you a year off to shuffle the team around (a la France) and build a squad of 40 people who know the competitive international routine on and around the pitch”. The current adminstrators grew through the ranks in the 90’s when the very relevance of Ireland to the 5N was dodgy, and that is their nightmare (and not an unreasonable one, if rugby expands in Europe we (and Wales and Scotland) are in a very scary place). Funnily enough though relentless pressure on ST success starves your future.

    The IRFU will now go through a recruiting process, thoughtful and good coaches will have a thorough plan that will in involve a period of rebuilding and the writing off of next season in preparation of a large injury-resistant squad for the WC year. They will be shown the door. The coach hired will have something that will boil down to I will try to win 3-5 6N games a year, every year, just like Deccie was made do and just like EOS before him.

    Nothing makes me happier than Irish rugby and nothing makes want to tear my hair out more, this year more than ever the balance was wrong, individual agendas have taken over the team, and a relentless short term focus finally ran us into a brick wall. You can blame Kidney, if you want, but he did it at the behest of a system that is self perpetuating and which measures success not as fans or as results on the pitch but as budgets met and personal political success and advancement. Expect more of the same…

    • ORiordan

       /  April 4, 2013

      I don’t see why rebuilding a squad must necessarily be mutually exclusive to results. If the coach puts in place an effective and coherent game plan suited to the players he selects, this will give improve the chances of getting results, whether the players are predominantly old lags or young bloods.

  19. TERMAGANT

     /  April 4, 2013

    @Cozz comment above

    Last time I saw something this off the pace, Reggie Corrigan was facing Shane Williams in the middle of the park with “Oh no” written all over his face.
    Let me get this right. Father Deccie sacks Ireland’s greatest player and captain in his testimonial year in order that he can appoint Jamie Heaslip, not because Heaslip is a better captain (or even a good one as it turned out) but that so all the players realise that they should be leaders in order that Jamie doesn’t have to be – is that it? (I realise I’m struggling here but it’s not easy translating gibberish into English).
    If so, what a load of cobblers – BOD “massively undermining Heaslip” ? – any disappointment expressed by BOD was mild – even Headphones acknowledged his graciousness in handing over the captaincy. Given that DK’s agenda was entirely based on his personal pique (that BOD had “called” him for poor preparation in NZ) and self-preservation (DK realised that even if Ireland did win the GS, most people would rightly attribute it to BOD – like the 2009 one) this was restrained to say the least.
    Which takes us back to the point of this thread – it was DK who made the decision to demote BOD so who should get the blame if BOD is not giving sufficient leadership? – now let me think….
    Typical of the man for whom every decision is vastly out of date, DK gives the captaincy to Headphones – a player whose star was waning already but who has now been discarded by most amateur Lions pickers and who will be very lucky indeed to be holding tackle bags in Oz.
    So let’s not blame BOD, shall we? In fact, I very much hope that the IRFU appoint Schmidt on the basis that he might just be able to persuade the great man to postpone retirement for one more year in order that his career with Ireland can have a more fitting finale than Rome.

    • @Termagent – Of course BOD undermined Heaslip… by his very presence.
      @Cozz – Bit harsh all the same to blame BOD for having an aura of greatness his successor clearly lacks, don’t you think?

      General point – while we’re mocking the amateurs of the IRFU and questioning the professionalism of sundry players, it might be worth remembering that our last 2 national coaches were formed and shaped in the amateur game. It would be harsh to dismiss them entirely as schoolteachers who were in the right place at the right time when the game went pro (especially given they’ve both also been successful elsewhere – USA and Munster), but there’s more than a nugget of truth to that description of them nonetheless.

      • ORiordan

         /  April 4, 2013

        Graham Henry was a school teacher too! In reality, any coach over the age of 45 or so will have been predominantly influenced by the amateur game.

      • Sort of my point: the much decried “blazers” and the lauded (by some, vilified by others) EOS and Kidney are one and the same, the only professionals here are the players.

        EOS and Kidney are often (rightly) described as one trick ponies. They did damn well for, effectively, amateurs making it up as they went along, but it won’t be long before these coaches are fondly remembered as charismatic dinosaurs a la Brian Clough and Bill Shankly.

        As for Henry, I see where you’re going but maybe he’s not the best example; prior to 1995 NZ rugby was amateur the way the top GAA counties are amateur now, not getting paid being no reason to eschew a fully professional ethos.

  20. Couple of observations:

    – firstly, re our “obsession” with Deccie, we have given him credit where it was due, for enterprising selections, brave decisions and good performances. Until this championship, when it became obvious it was over, we never called for his head at any point, even after the 60-0 debacle.
    – Kidney is the coach, and as Harry Truman put it, the buck stops with him. As he gets credit for the Grand Slam, he ultimately takes the blame for this disaster of a tournament
    – we continually put across our criticism of the amateurs who hold power at the IRFU and constantly put across our desire for a modern and professional organisation to run Irish rugby. In fact, we often get told that certain amateurs in the union give more to rugby than we do, therefore we shouldn’t criticise
    – anyone who wants us to criticise players for anything other than performance can bugger off to the more hysterical fora out there
    – re showing some respect to Kidney by not posting about him losing his job, what should we do? Dress in black for a few days? A week? A month? Or discuss newsworthy events when they happen? No-one is “dancing on Deccie’s grave” by acknowledging that he lost his job, and, shock horror, that he might have contributed to it in some way by his actions. If you want bland platitudes, listen to Frankie (who, incidentally, used to be a professional rugby player – not a good advertisement for on-pitch experience = expertise)

  21. Great article as usual lads. One thing that rarely gets a mention re Deccies tenure, and you’ve half touched on it above, is the game plan issue and how it was handled. In the November Internationals in 2010 Ireland took on those BNZs and for quite a lot of the game were right up there with them. Sure there was a 10-15 minute period where we dropped off and the Kiwis punished us, but the rest of the game was a fairly impressive display of something akin to expansive rugby. And was certainly something we could have built on.

    However in the 2011 6 Nations we went out against Italy and struggled. We made a lot of unforced errors and only scraped the win. The lads told us to stick with them and that they were close to clicking (how many times have we heard that since!?). After the NZ game though I was optimistic. We went out against France the following week and looked immeasurably better. Yes there were still issues, but we scored 3 tries to their 1 on the day and only lost due to the number of penalties we conceded.

    Then came the kicker; literally and metaphorically. Sexton was dropped, ROG brought in and we reverted to the auld reliable; kicking the leather off the ball. We won that day but Scotland played all the rugby. Had they even the slightest idea how to cross the line they likely would have beaten us. It wasn’t exactly a convincing display and Scotland could have nicked it in the end. Against Wales we stuck with it and lost a game we most certainly should have won. And despite the victory over England the damage, sadly, was done. Ireland had attempted to implement an expansive game at the end of 2010 and start of 2011. And after two 6 Nations games it was abandoned.

    Since then, as you pointed out, we’ve struggled to find a style of play. And while the question over whether the coaches or the IRFU made the call to abandon the expansive game isn’t one we’re ever likely to hear the answer to, it is possibly the most important question we can ask. Because if you look back at the 6 Nations tournament in 2011 we should have beaten Wales. A better display against both Scotland and France would have increased our points difference and we could have been going into that game against England with the opportunity to nick the championship. The very same way that Wales did this year. Even had we lost out it still could have been a hugely positive 6 Nations and who knows where we’d have gone from there.

  22. Sorry that last paragraph should read “A better display against both Scotland and Wales…”

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