Saturday 17 February 2018

Kidney insists confidence is returning as All Blacks clash looms

Hugh Farrelly

DECLAN KIDNEY does not believe his players have a confidence issue heading into next weekend's daunting assignment with the All Blacks.

Ireland struggled to an unconvincing 20-10 victory over Samoa on Saturday, with the visitors threatening a shock win until a well-taken try by out-half Ronan O'Gara after 66 minutes steered the Irish home.

In a TV interview afterwards, O'Gara stated that "confidence is quite low" in the squad, but the Ireland coach is banking on his players drawing self-belief from a victory which ended a run of four Test defeats and six in total.

"I don't think it (confidence) is that bad," said Kidney. "Our confidence is going to be a little bit better going into next week.

"Anxiety will always be there when you've lost a few matches and I think we were anxious going into the game, but the first 20 minutes I was happy enough with and then they got a try and, you know, it crept in again a little bit too.


"If you're winning, you can end up taking it (confidence) for granted and when you're losing, then it's bound to bite into it. It wasn't exactly an attractive game but we managed to get a win out of it and I suppose after the last six matches, that's a plus."

The scrum was a disaster area for Ireland, only settling down when Cian Healy and Rory Best came off the bench and Tom Court switched to tight-head in place of John Hayes. Referee Keith Brown consistently penalised the under-pressure Irish unit and there were major issues with the New Zealander's delay prior to engagement.

"I think from the time there was 'crouch' to the time there was 'engage' there was six seconds, on average. That's what they (the IRB) are trying to do. Sometimes the less rules you have the better. It's something we must work on," said Kidney, who acknowledged the improvement after the front-row substitutions.

"The first 60 minutes you're at a certain level and then when the lads come in fresh, you are looking for the subs to make a positive impact. They have had the benefit of seeing the way the referee is doing it. They had a positive impact and we're just lucky to have a few options now."

Kidney said Ireland have yet to play to their potential this November and stressed how they will need to play to the top of their ability to compete with a superb New Zealand side that destroyed Scotland 49-3 on Saturday evening.

"Everybody who plays New Zealand needs to play to the top of their ability to get the better of them. We just have to get ourselves as right as we can," he said.

Irish Independent

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