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Kidney takes leap of faith

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20 February 2013; Ireland head coach Declan Kidney with Luke Marshall during squad training ahead of their side's RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against Scotland on Sunday. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

20 February 2013; Ireland head coach Declan Kidney with Luke Marshall during squad training ahead of their side's RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against Scotland on Sunday. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

20 February 2013; Ireland head coach Declan Kidney with Luke Marshall during squad training ahead of their side's RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against Scotland on Sunday. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

IT has all come down to this for Ireland coach Declan Kidney. From the Grand Slam at the Millennium Stadium in 2009 to the 'Grand Gamble' at Murrayfield on Sunday.

The decision to plump for Ulster's Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall at 10 and 12 is a monumental leap of faith in two young men who could hold the destiny of Kidney's contract negotiations in their hands.

The selection of Marshall was clearly signposted by attack coach Les Kiss on Tuesday as a second receiver eminently capable of putting ball to flight, following time spent as an out-half at Ballymena Academy and for Ulster Schools and Ireland U19s.

 

Mastered

For all of Gordon D'Arcy's merits – there are so many – he has never mastered the art of kicking the ball to the standard required to make defences have to consider that as an option.

For instance, England kept three players, their wingers Chris Ashton and Mike Brown and full-back Alex Goode, in the backfield against Ireland, denying Jonathan Sexton, and Ronan O'Gara after him, the space to land the ball on grass.

The inclusion of Marshall, a second kick option, means if the Scotland back three drop deep, particularly on a wet day, they will still have to consider a ball in behind when Jackson moves it one further out.

That prevents the Scottish wingers from rushing up into position to defend Ireland in the wide channels, holding them long enough for Ireland to get on the outside.

This is all part of "the whole picture" that Kidney mentioned at the Ireland team announcement yesterday as two remarkably cherubic young men, Jackson, 22, and Marshall, 23 next week, sat on either side of him.

Suddenly, scrum-half Conor Murray has been deemed an experienced trooper as a 23-year-old service provider for Jackson with 15 caps on his curriculum vitae.

The ageless Brian O'Driscoll looks more indispensible to Ireland than ever.


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