Kidney gathers troops for two-day camp
RUGBY:Ireland coach Declan Kidney will conduct a two-day camp at Carton House with an abbreviated squad on Thursday and Friday in preparation for the upcoming Six Nations.
Given that there are RaboDirect PRO12 matches on Saturday, between Munster and Ulster at Thomond Park and Connacht travelling to the RDS to take on Leinster, Kidney is conscious of now exacerbating already depleted provincial reserves by calling in too many players, so the numbers won’t quite reach those employed for sessions during the November Test series.
Due to the player welfare programme many front-line Irish players won’t play in the inter-provincials at the weekend but that’ll be down to the respective provincial coaches: they decide what matches the internationals players compete in based on the agreed maximum during an eight-game playing block of fixtures.
A number of players currently rehabbing injuries, Rob Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Stephen Ferris, are expected to travel to Carton House.
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has no additional injury concerns arising from the defeat in Belfast. Noel Reid was withdrawn as a precaution after twisting awkwardly and ending up slightly dazed following a collision. Leo Cullen had five stitches inserted in a cut above an eye but both players are expected to be available.
Luke Fitzgerald continues to rehabilitate from his long-term injury and will take a full part in training this week. Schmidt admitted: “Hopefully we’ll be in a position to welcome back Luke (Fitzgerald), Eoin (O’Malley), Dave (Kearney) and Shane (Jennings) either this week or next and it was also good to get Rob (Kearney) and Brian (O’Driscoll) back on the field as they step up their respective programmes.
“With a number of internationals set to be rested this weekend that presents some of the younger members of the panel with a further opportunity to gain experience that will hopefully add value to their development.
“These interprovincial games around the Christmas period are great for players and supporters alike and it looks like we’re going to have another big crowd which is fantastic. The atmosphere will be charged and I know that the players are excited about getting back to playing in the RDS for the first time in a while.
“We played well in parts of the Ulster game and it was frustrating not to get something for our efforts.
“But we also know that we’ve got to move on quickly and salvage as much as we can from the Christmas period.
“Saturday night presents the squad with an opportunity to put the Ulster performance behind us but the improving Connacht side have proved very difficult to beat this year. . . .”
Connacht will look back ruefully on Saturday night’s 16-12 defeat to Munster at a windy and rain-drenched Sporstground as they twice came close to scoring tries while conceding a penalty try when a scrum collapsed.
Munster’s Ian Keatley showed tremendous pace to cut down Fetu’u Vainikolo and drag him into touch, inches short of the line while Peter Stringer distracted Connacht secondrow George Naoupu to prevent him from touching down. Munster coach Rob Penney admitted: “Keatley is a quick guy and with Vainikolo in space, alarms bell ring.”
And as to the Ulster match? “Bring it on, it’s beautiful isn’t it. The local derbies are fantastic and the Ulster guys are going so well. It will be a bit of benchmark for us given they are so far in front and playing fantastic rugby and tough rugby as well. They will be very difficult. To come away up there beating Leinster by that score . . . it will certainly boost their confidence even more coming to Thomond.”