Kidney sets focus on Paris hangover cure
GIVEN the destabilising effects of their hammering in Paris, having England at Twickenham next up is not the worst scenario for Ireland and their coach Declan Kidney.
Yes, if it had been a home game against Italy or Scotland, there would have been an instant opportunity for a confidence-restoration exercise, but, given how far this team has progressed over the last 15 months, taking on a bullish England team in front of their home supporters is probably the best way for the Grand Slam champions to get Paris out of their system.
Win in Twickenham and there is the chance, in the final two home games against Wales and Scotland, to further this squad's development in preparation for the World Cup -- not to mention the significant challenges in New Zealand and Australia on the summer tour.
However, defeating the English is never a straightforward matter.
Regardless of their fitful form in their opening two wins over Wales and Italy, Martin Johnson's men have momentum and feel they are destined for a Grand Slam showdown with France on the final Six Nations weekend.
And, just as the French did, England have targeted the Irish game as a worthy notch in the belt and an occasion to settle a few scores.
Having led Ireland to a narrow win over England in Croke Park last year, Kidney recognises the scale of challenge facing his team tomorrow week, pointing out that the two-week break between the France and England games is a double-edged sword.
"It's rare in international rugby you get a chance to do anything other than match-day preparation; it gives you a chance to sit back and reflect," said Kidney in Cork yesterday, after the squad's two-day training stint.
"It also allows the bodies to rest. The unfortunate thing is that it also allows the English to rest and that's what we found last year, when we played them in the middle match; they were good and fresh. And they will come out with points to prove and momentum having won their first two matches.
"England are never too far off the top, they just have too many numbers and are too well organised to be. In November, I think they were missing 27 players and they still won a couple of matches.
"We probably would have had to call off our fixtures if that happened us. Last year they ended up second in the Six Nations under a lot criticism and they have won their first two matches this year.
"They are a good side, they are well organised, hard to break down. A side that doesn't concede too many points is always hard to get the best of. Last year, there was only a point or two in it."
Last Saturday's 33-10 reverse in Paris has presented Kidney with the toughest challenge of his coaching career.
A lengthy post mortem was required and conducted, but, while he did not want reveal too much of the findings, the coach singled out communication as an issue in need of urgent attention.
"We had a few individual errors which were costly, but communication really was the big thing which affected us in attack and defence.
"We need to up our communication because it helps link the defence and coordinate the attack, especially from wide out, where we need that little bit more. There's a multitude of smaller issues, but I wouldn't be going into them here. Small things add up, maybe dropping a ball or having a tilt in the scrum, the angle that a fella's at, and when you add all those together it can have a positive effect and other days a negative effect."
There were 19 unforced errors against France and it seemed that every time Ireland generated some momentum, they were undone by a knock-on or poor pass.
These errors will have to be eradicated for Twickenham and, although losing to France was never part of the grand plan, Kidney says it has focused minds and steeled determination.
"You can either sit down and moan about it or you can take a look at it, try and learn from it and move on. Then it's a case of how quickly do you move on? Saturday week, that's our aim.
"There's nothing surer in sport than that you are going to lose a game at some stage. Whether you lose or you're being beaten, that can change your mindset.
"It was a bit of both last Saturday. We've learned a good bit about ourselves over the last three days and we need to put that to good effect to make us a better side."