Monday 22 October 2018

Slam stars must avoid complacency - Kidney

Former Irish coach warns ‘massive Tests’ await in Australia

Declan Kidney is confident that he will turn things around at London Irish. Photo: Sportsfile
Declan Kidney is confident that he will turn things around at London Irish. Photo: Sportsfile

Rory Keane

Declan Kidney has warned Ireland against any complacency ahead of their three-Test tour of Australia this summer.

Kidney, who guided Ireland to a Grand Slam in 2009, is back from a five-year exile and has taken up his role as technical consultant with London Irish in the Aviva Premiership.

Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad have been lauded following their clean sweep of this year's championship but the former Munster head coach, who guided the province to a brace of Heineken Cup titles, knows the pitfalls that success can bring.

"This is a one-off Six Nations and they will know better than anyone else it starts all over again," said Kidney. "It starts in June when they are down in Australia and there are three massive Tests ahead of them.

"Michael Cheika from Australia will know a lot of our lads (from his time at Leinster) and the system they have come from so it is another massive series for Ireland.

"Joe is an excellent coach. He has done a really good job with the team. There is great credit due to all the academy systems around the country that there are so many good players coming through and Joe has a style of play that encourages those guys to come through and fill those roles.

"The age profile of the team is very good but I wouldn't be putting pressure on them in any way."

Rory Best and Rob Kearney, who played key roles in this season's championship, were also key lieutenants during Kidney's stint as Ireland boss. For Kidney, it was a proud day to see skipper Best claim an historic brace of Grand Slam titles.

"That is the joy of international football, every game is like a cup final and you try and stay involved for as many as you can," said Kidney.

"So for someone like Rory to captain the side, and I think of all the bangs and knocks he has had and the highs and lows he has had in rugby, to come through and to have the team as gelled as he has there is massive credit due to Rory and all his leadership team around him. And Joe has facilitated for that to happen."

Following Ireland's fifth-place finish in the 2013 Six Nations, Kidney stepped down from the Ireland job and took up a role as director of sport at his alma mater, University College Cork.

Now, the 58-year-old has been convinced to return to the game and help guide London Irish to safety in the Premiership.

The Exiles are currently 12 points adrift of Worcester at the bottom of the league standings, but the club have a long-term plan.

When Les Kiss left his role as Ulster's director of rugby in January, Kidney sought out the Australian to join forces with him in London.

Kiss was first recruited by Kidney to take charge of Ireland's defence back in 2008. Kiss became a key figure in Ireland's coaching set-up, winning three Six Nations championships, across the Kidney and Schmidt reigns.

"I suppose in life sometimes the stars don't align but in this particular case, one bit of misfortune turns out to be another's good fortune," said Kidney on appointing Kiss as his new head coach at London Irish.

Unlucky

"Les was really unlucky with injuries at Ulster at the time and Ulster and Les parted ways. I just gave him a shout to say, 'What would you think?', and here we are."

London Irish had a proud tradition of producing Irish Test players in the past. The likes of Victor Costello, Justin Bishop and Kieron Dawson were all products of the Exiles system, but the club's links with Irish rugby have receded in recent times.

Kidney was cagey on striking up a new partnership with the IRFU, but was open to further collaboration.

"My understanding was that things were very close before," he explained.

"When it was set up there was a massive Irish influence around the club and since it has become more (diverse).

"The population has spread out and there are a lot more people to it. Ideally, if we can be of any assistance at all we would only be too delighted - but the IRFU have enough of a task in looking after the four provinces without having to look after us in any way.

"If we can help out, Les (Kiss) and myself will be only too happy to do that.

"The IRFU have a good set-up, good players coming through. We are not part of that plan and it would be wrong of us to think we are owed anything.

"We just have to measure up to be the best club we can be in the English system, and that's what we will do. We have a lot of young guys coming through who we want to play for England."

Irish Independent

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