Hickie admits replacing Kidney not easy

Former Leinster and Ireland wing namechecks O’Shea, Schmidt and McCall

 Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt. James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt. James Crombie/Inpho


Former Ireland winger Denis Hickie believes the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has a tough task to find the right man to replace Declan Kidney.

The union decided not to offer Kidney a new contract and he yesterday left his job as coach ahead of the end of his current deal on June 30th.

Hickie, who also played for Leinster, has named Conor O’Shea, Mark McCall and Joe Schmidt as possible replacements for Kidney.

But Hickie believes it will not be easy to tempt the likes of Harlequins director of rugby O’Shea, Saracens director of rugby McCall or Leinster coach Schmidt.

“It will be a big challenge to see who they can get,” Hickie told BBC Radio Five Live.

“Mark McCall is doing a very good job at Saracens. Joe Schmidt, the Leinster coach, would be a great public favourite. It’s whether they can get a guy like him to commit to Ireland for four to five years.”

Ireland suffered a poor RBS 6 Nations campaign which featured shock defeats to Scotland and Italy and a fifth-placed finish which saw the country fall to a lowest ever world ranking of ninth.

The loss in Italy on the final weekend of the campaign led many to call for Kidney’s resignation, so yesterday’s announcement came as no surprise.

A statement from the IRFU read: “The decision was made following an in-depth review process carried out by the IRFU’s National Team Review Group (NTRG).

“The IRFU thank Declan Kidney for the unquestionable commitment, passion, professionalism and success he has delivered to Irish Rugby to date.

“The IRFU, through the NTRG, will continue the process of identifying suitable candidates for the Ireland coaching role.”

Hickie believes injuries played a significant part in Ireland’s poor Six Nations showing, exposing a lack of strength in depth, as the 2009 champions came up short.

Ireland had to deal with a debilitating injury list which robbed them of key players such as Paul O’Connell, Jonathan Sexton and Simon Zebo.

“In recent years, certainly this year and even last year, there has been an horrific run of injuries,” added Hickie.

“When Ireland won the Grand Slam they used 21 players and this year they used 36 and Ireland doesn’t have 36 front-line international players.”

Les Kiss has been confirmed as the interim head coach for Ireland’s summer tour of north America, with Gert Smal and Anthony Foley acting as his assistants.

Ireland will be hoping they can show a marked improvement against the United States in Houston on June 8 and then Canada in Toronto a week later following their dismal showing in the Six Nations.

They began their campaign with an impressive defeat of eventual tournament winners Wales at the Millennium Stadium, but that proved to be the highlight for Kidney’s men.

Back-to-back defeats against England and Scotland were followed by a draw against France before another surprise loss in Italy on the final weekend.

Kidney replaced the outgoing Eddie O’Sullivan as Ireland coach in 2008 and his crowning glory was undoubtedly leading them to the Six Nations Grand Slam a year later.

They were beaten in the World Cup quarter-final in 2011 by Wales, while they suffered a record 60-0 defeat against world champions New Zealand last year.