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Fiji squabble offers Kidney brief moment of respite

THIS is a time of great intrigue and greater uncertainty over the direction of the Irish senior team and their management.

The buck must stop at the front door of the coach Declan Kidney. When it stops, of course, is up to the decision-makers at the Irish Rugby Football Union to make a move or plough the same furrow.

It says so much, or should that be so little, about their professional acumen that they should fail to learn from the biggest mistake they made during the reign of Kidney's predecessor Eddie O'Sullivan.

The IRFU agreed to a four-year contract extension with O'Sullivan before the 2007 World Cup that would bring him up to -- that's right -- the 2012 Six Nations.

History and even a bad memory tell us Ireland imploded at the World Cup in France and O'Sullivan limped along in the role until a weary 2008 Six Nations when he left the post.

Move forward four years. What do you know?

Weeks before the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, the IRFU announces an extended contract for Kidney to the summer of 2013.

What had they learned from the O'Sullivan debacle? Nothing. Now, Kidney, an honourable man, is at the crossroads of his tenure. Ireland have lost their last six internationals, the worst return in the professional era.

The act of reducing the Fiji match at Thomond Park to non-international status is spitting in the face of the under-resourced and over-here Islanders.

It does, however, remove the risk of Ireland losing critical ground to Scotland in the race for eighth place in the world rankings. Where there is no risk, there can be little reward.

It is with this in mind that Kidney has been given the room to have a look at some of the younger brigade without the fear of losing face or second-tier status for England in 2015.

This does not smack of confidence in those on the fringes of the international squad, especially against the unstructured Fijians, denied so many of their first-choice players.

No doubt, Kidney's command will come under serious threat when the Pumas come to Dublin next week. For the moment, he will get to use so many of the names he talks about at press conferences, but rarely trusts with game time when it counts.

This one definitely doesn't count for much.

IRELAND v FIJI, Thomond Park

Tomorrow (5.30) LIVE RTE2/BBC2

VERDICT: Ireland

IRELAND: D Hurley; F McFadden, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; P Jackson, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, S Cronin, M Ross, D O'Callaghan, D Tuohy, I Henderson, J Muldoon, J Heaslip (capt).

FIJI: Fiji: M Talebula; S Koniferedi, V Govena, J Matavesi, W Votu; J Ralulu, N Matawalu; J Anuyanutawa, V Veikoso, D Manu (capt), L Nakarawa, A Naikatini, I Ratuva, M Ravulo, N Nagusa.