Kidney looks to get back up the rankings
RUGBY:DECLAN KIDNEY, along with his assistants Les Kiss and Gert Smal, yesterday entered the hardest sell of their tenure as the Irish coaching ticket, to team, public and employees alike. Promoting the November Guinness Series against the ultra physical pair of South Africa and Argentina is a tough enough sell, but how Ireland come through encounters with this battle-hardened pair and the Six Nations will determine whether their reign will be extended beyond the end of their current contract until the end of the season.
“We’re talking about my situation?” he said, a little taken aback to be asked about it. “My situation doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is that we do well. That’s been the only pressure I’ve been under from day one. Coaches are the same as players, you’re here for a while so you make the most of everything. We’ve a fantastic occasion coming up so that’s the only thing I worry about. The other stuff that goes along with that doesn’t matter, I’m not important in this. All that matters is that Ireland go well.”
Kidney maintained that the August 24th get-together to review the New Zealand tour, and especially the Hamilton horror show in Test three, was no more necessary than any post-tour review.
“It’s always the professional thing to do. Is it one that anyone would have looked forward to? It’s always nicer coming off a winning sequence, when you’ve lost then you know that always makes it harder, so if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger. Fellas can either stick their heads in the sand and ignore it, or we just bounce back from it.”
In many ways, this upcoming series is not unlike the current management’s first foray in November 2008, when beating Argentina in a taut occasion at Croke Park a week after a defeat to New Zealand did enough to maintain an IRB ranking of eighth and thus a second tier seeding in the World Cup draw.
With the December 3rd draw in mind for RWC 2015 in mind, Ireland are currently ranked seventh.
The management was, Kidney admitted, a bit younger then (they’re not alone), and their first game was against Canada. The team has changed significantly too. Ireland still have a winning ratio under Kidney of 55 per cent in his 45-match reign, but thanks in part to losing the four World Cup warm-up matches in August last year (which also saw their world ranking slip from fourth to eighth), Ireland’s winning ratio has also dipped from the highs of the 2009 Grand Slam to 51.4 per cent (18 wins, two draws and 17 defeats) in the 37 matches since then. Extracting all but top tier nations, that winning ratio dips to 38.7 per cent.
“The results are not the way we would have wanted them,” admitted Kidney, who cited the expectations raised by the Slam and how the team has been largely rebuilt since, citing the 13 changes from the Slam-winning side to the third Test starting XV and the ensuing experience which saw them chase the game after going 14-0 down.
“We learned a huge amount from that. I’ve been in this long enough to know that out of that, great things can come; it all depends on how you approach it. You look at other sides like England, who went through the same sort of thing, then a couple of years later they were winning all sorts of things.
“We’ll make no promises. Where Irish rugby stands in world rugby has been, traditionally, we’ve gone from third to eighth/ninth since rankings came in and we’ve got to fight for every ranking point we get and that’s what we’ll look to do in November.”