Bursting sickbay makes it a whole new ball game for Kidney
RBS Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 9/3/2013Ireland vs FranceIreland captain Jamie HeaslipMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Colm O'Neill
There was a five-minute phase towards the end of Saturday’s match when Brian O’Driscoll looked distressed, Luke Marshall looked distressed and Eoin Redden was extremely distressed. If Declan Kidney doesn’t believe in conspiring gods, he may be more persuaded to do so as the body count stacked up.
Kidney’s ill-fortune with players has reached absurd levels and while his instinct after the match was to step back from pointing out the obvious, his position in defending the Irish team position was an impossible one to hold without stringing out the names.
By the end of the match he had Ian Madigan in the centre, an injured Brian O’Driscoll outside him and hooker Seán Cronin coming in for the badly injured Reddan (fracture leg). Where was Cronin going to play Kidney was asked?
“Well I got asked that question as well and I said it’s a defensive position on a defensive play and we weren’t going to get any more set-pieces so it was in the defensive line,” he answered.
What player resources Kidney will have before trekking off to Rome next weekend is in the hands of the same gods that have tortured this campaign. Reddan has finished his season. Marshall was concussed and will be managed back to playing and O’Driscoll is generally, well, bullet proof but winged.
“What we’ll have to do is reassess and see who will be able to do anything Monday and Tuesday,” said Kidney. “We’ve already had a good look at that – we’ll assess to see who can train and then select accordingly.
Extra work done
“It will obviously be a time we’ll just have to push out finalising anything until later on in the week as you would expect in a competition at this stage. It will be a case of ‘right, okay, if these lads are out, who’s next in?’ and working with them. There will probably need to be a bit of extra work done with them to bring them up to speed.”
As a coach he sees benefits. He sees future capital in the adversity and the bursting sick bay means younger players bone up on playing at international level. He sees benefits in the strength of character in his squad. Where some may see cold comfort in that Kidney sees a half-full glass. The benefits, he says are “Huge. Huge”.
“I’ve put together enough teams in my life to know every so often you have to go through something like this. It’s not something you plan to go through or want to go through . . . The year we won the slam we had a zero per cent injury rate. Now we’re working off something like 40 per cent. Ten or 15 per cent is what you expect. France was missing Pape, was it?”
Captain Jamie Heaslip felt the match could have fallen either way. Ireland could have won it and France, because of the way they play the game, could have won it. Would anyone else other than Frédéric Michalak have kicked a chancy grubber in the last play of the game with France in possession and sqeezing down on the Irish line.
“It’s weird. It’s a strange one,” said Heaslip. “That game especially is a game we could have won and then very easily the class side we were playing we could have lost. The changing room was somewhat flat. There was a positives in the game and a couple of negatives. We gave them easy outs, when we could have gained momentum in their green zone. That’s disappointing. The French, you don’t have to give them a second chance.”
Heaslip gave the impression that the result was a ‘bad’ draw rather than a ‘good’ draw. But was it a good result for Ireland.
“I’ll leave it to ye,” said Kidney not wishing to labour the injury point. “I’m not being smart. Straight after a match it’s frustration when you don’t win out.
“When you’re seven points down and you’re going for a try and you get it, you think tha’s a great result. If you’re 13-3 up at half-time and you don’t win out then there can be a sense of disappointment. I’ll leave that to you.”