Kidney runs his eye over new crop
RUGBY: AUTUMN INTERNATIONALSTHE UPCOMING November internationals will provide a glimpse into the future. The continuing doubt about Paul O’Connell’s back injury makes it a distinct possibility that none of the longest-serving members of Ireland’s leadership group will take the field against the Springboks on November 10th.
Brian O’Driscoll (ankle) and Rory Best (neck) were crocked last weekend and while Ronan O’Gara returns from a pulled hamstring for Munster in Cardiff tonight, the 35-year-old has not been the starting Irish outhalf since last year’s World Cup.
Rob Kearney would have been an obvious contender to take the captaincy but he just underwent back surgery. Add in Seán O’Brien’s name and it’s surely the cruellest injury list Irish rugby has encountered in the professional era.
The last two European players of the year and the last two Lions captains.
And there’s more. Fergus McFadden has been unable to train due to stitches in his ear while Cian Healy worryingly took his damaged shoulder to a specialist yesterday.
We are clearly witnessing a changing of the guard and while nobody expected this rate of acceleration Declan Kidney has been transitioning the leadership group for almost 12 months.
“I knew that was always going to come around so I knew it would be wrong to wait for it to happen,” said Kidney. “There is a crop of players there, I am not going to identify them, but it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to work out who they are.
“They have been around for quite a bit. About half a dozen, eight fellas we are working on and bringing them through.”
We know Jonathan Sexton and Donnacha Ryan are recent additions to the inner sanctum, with Ulster lock Dan Tuohy confirming as much. “They are looking at a more senior role than they were possibly used to,” he said.
Gordon D’Arcy put himself in that bracket yesterday: “You go through being a young fella challenging the status quo and you suddenly turn around and you are the status quo and everybody is a lot younger than you.”
Jamie Heaslip is unbeaten as Leinster captain when filling-in for Leo Cullen these past few years and is on record as saying he wants the responsibility, while Peter O’Mahony could easily become the next Ireland captain if O’Connell doesn’t make it. The former Pres Cork backrower ticks a lot of boxes having already led Ireland through the underage grades and Munster this season.
Kidney smiled when asked if a new captain needed to have previous experience in the role (O’Driscoll came in cold in 2002)? “Not necessarily, no.” He also confirmed his mind was made up.