Kidney runs his eye over new crop
Of course, O’Connell may yet recover to lead the team against South Africa but he couldn’t train yesterday. It must also be noted the 33-year-old has come back from two serious (groin and knee) injuries since 2010.
“If it was a cup final he could have trained,” said Kidney. “It is just prudence this week to try and get rid of it.” The exact nature of the injury was not revealed.
O’Driscoll, O’Connell, Best, O’Gara and Kearney could all return by the Six Nations but a new leadership group is still required for the 2015 World Cup in England.
“What I learnt a long time ago is it doesn’t stand still,” Kidney continued. “You have to keep bringing guys through.
“You do lose experience without a shadow of a doubt. There is a considerable amount of intellectual knowledge that isn’t available to us anymore, for one reason or another, but there are new players coming in and bringing their excitement to it. There are half a dozen new guys in camp for the first time. That brings its own excitement.”
The drop in “intellectual knowledge” could also refer to Geordan Murphy and Shane Jennings.
Kidney’s poker face came up thereafter. He flooded the centre, fullback and tighthead positions with every conceivable candidate. At one point we expected the list to extend into the AIL or provincial academies. He named six possible fullbacks to replace Kearny, including Connacht teenager Robbie Henshaw.
There were, in fairness, a few clues. Denis Hurley’s call-up was a head scratcher as Felix Jones is clearly above him in the Munster pecking order.
But there is history of Kidney dropping Hurley into a team from nowhere, going back to 2008 when Shaun Payne lost out for the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup.
There is hope for the injury-prone Jones, providing he shows well tonight in just his second start of the campaign, as Kidney confirmed the team will not necessarily be selected from the current training squad.
With Declan Fitzpatrick concussed it seemed certain that Taranaki’s Michael Bent (he of the Rathmines granny) would sit on the bench as Mike Ross’ understudy on Saturday week.
“He (Bent) joined in the training fully today for the first time. It is great that we have someone match fit.”
But then Kidney flung another curve ball by reopening the tighthead door for Sale’s Tony Buckley or John Andress, the 28-year-old Belfast-born prop, currently with the Worcester Warriors.
“Due to [IRB] regulation nine they couldn’t come into us this week but if they come in next week we would have to make a decision by Tuesday. I would have to decide they can pick up everything they are doing within two days otherwise we would have to release them as that’s the deal with the Premiership.”