Kidney remains upbeat while brushing off questions about his future

Although jogging at Carton House yesterday Jonathan Sexton is still rated at less than 50-50 to make the game against France next week. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Although jogging at Carton House yesterday Jonathan Sexton is still rated at less than 50-50 to make the game against France next week. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Fri, Mar 1, 2013, 00:00

RUGBY:Declan Kidney has needed a broad back for the last few days, and yesterday he presented an upbeat front, apparently not only to his media inquisitors but to his starting XV who returned for a two-day camp at Carton House yesterday, despite the get-together beginning with a morning video-nasty. He’s no mug and can read the tea leaves, but the show must go on.

Needless to say, he also played a smiling dead bat to all inquiries as to his own future, maintaining he was only thinking of the next game. To that end, he and his coaches will take a keen watching brief this weekend on the outhalves in the mix to play France tomorrow week – namely Paddy Jackson, Ronan O’Gara and Ian Madigan. The hamstrung Jonny Sexton, though jogging, is rated as “less than 50-50”.

Mark Tainton will travel to Newport today for Leinster’s non-televised game against the Dragons, where he will also be observing the form of Luke Fitzgerald, Fergus McFadden and Eoin Reddan, with Andrew Trimble, starting on the right wing for Ulster at home to Treviso tonight, also under scrutiny.

Jackson probably remains in pole position to start provided he has a decent place-kicking return tonight, while the wing positions are possibly a little more fluid again, not least due to Craig Gilroy’s groin strain and the possible merits for including McFadden.

Gilroy should train next week but somewhat alarmingly Donnacha Ryan is rated at less than 50-50 due to the bruised A/C joint he suffered against Scotland. He was “hopeful” of being fit next week, and either way in the context of the 23 to face France, it is perhaps significant that Dan Tuohy, who returns to the Ulster side tonight, was added to the Irish squad yesterday.

Aside from the captaincy and the goal-kicking gamble of Murrayfield, the other issue haunting Kidney is the team’s lack of consistency, all the more so as the fault lines vary from game to game.

Staying the course

“When any team evolves as this one is doing, it takes a period of time when you’re going to be knocking on the door. You try not to knock on the door for too long, and then they’ll get a win and a lot of things will kick into place. And they are knocking on the door, that’s the frustrating thing about it. The recurring theme is that you could say, well, we’ve tried not to make excuses but if one pass went to hand then all of a sudden a whole lot of things change. So it’s a case of staying the course with it.”

Nor, he maintained, would a pragmatic style a la England suit this team which, it has to be said, doesn’t have the same physicality and ballast as England, especially off the bench and all the more so given Ireland’s high-profile casualty list.

“We’ve been expansive to suit our skill set and when you’re expansive it can look as if you’re making a few errors, but we have to go for it. That’s the nature of the side that we have, so we have an attacking mindset that we’re looking to exploit. The trouble is when you’ve an attacking mindset you leave yourself open to a bit more criticism that we’re just not playing that pressure game totally. But it wouldn’t suit us at the moment.”

One recurring theme, however, has been the failure of Ireland to see out 80 minutes, losing the last 20 or 30 by tallies of 19-0, 6-0 and 12-0 to date. Nor is this last quarter a new phenomenon.

Done better

“There are things I know that can be done better but I’m not going into those here now,” he said, beyond citing the failure to take opportunities and the lack of discipline, “because most of the points that we’ve given away have been penalties. We just need to trust our defence a bit more and that’s one of the themes that we talked about this morning.

“I think this season we’ve conceded four tries, including November, and three of those were when we had a man in the bin. You have to build that belief into players and if you can believe in that then you don’t give away those penalties. So that can be one of themes of the last 20 minutes.”

The team’s “middle management” is, he believes, learning to give this team the wisdom it has been missing in endgames, while the reduced try-scoring rate is in part due to the standard of opposition.

Asked how he was sleeping, Kidney smiled and said: “Great.” As to whether he was coping with the pressure, he maintained: “I seem to nod off okay. There’s different things in different lives. I take it very seriously. I wouldn’t try to be glib one bit about it. This is not so much a job as a lifestyle but what you have to do, if you don’t sleep you’re not going to make decisions the next day.”

“Sometimes you sleep on your decisions and then you know when you’re sleeping well you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. So thanks for the concern about my health.”

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