Friday 24 November 2017

Jamie Heaslip: “Declan Kidney’s future is out of our hands”

Jamie Heaslip
Jamie Heaslip

Alex Lowe

IRELAND captain Jamie Heaslip insisted Declan Kidney's future as head coach is out of the players' hands following a "frustrating" and disappointing RBS 6 Nations championship.

Kidney is facing calls to resign after Ireland's defeat to Italy on the final weekend of the tournament condemned them to a fifth-place finish and their lowest ever world ranking of ninth.

Ewen McKenzie is being linked with a move to Ireland after he announced he would be stepping down from his role as Queensland Reds head coach at the end of the Super Rugby season.

Heaslip praised the Ireland management team and he believes there are positive elements to be taken from the Six Nations - but also some tough lessons.

"Our experience with the coaching staff, the management staff, the strength and conditioning, the facilities we had was all amazing, everything else going forward is outside of our hands regarding whatever is going to happen," Heaslip said.

"There is a sense of frustration from what happened.

"There is a bit of optimism as well because we had such a young squad. In every game we created a lot of different opportunities but we have to learn how to be more clinical with the ball.

"I think we have built a lot with this young team. A lot of experiences have been had. We want the squad to get stronger in the future."

Ireland had to deal with a debilitating injury list, which robbed them of key players such as Paul O'Connell, Jonathan Sexton and Simon Zebo.

O'Connell will make his first appearance since October for Munster this weekend and his comeback is good news for British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland.

Heaslip has his own Lions ambitions and he will be hopeful that Gatland has been able to pick out individual performances from Ireland's frustrating championship.

Competition in the back row is so fierce that the Lions management have decided to take seven loose forwards instead of six.

Heaslip and Wales' Toby Faletau are the leading number eight contenders, although the Lions could end up taking just one specialist.

"As a player, the season has gone really well for me," Heaslip said.

"I think I have played some really good rugby. In the Six Nations, I know the results didn't go our way but I have been happy with the way I have played over the last couple of games.

"It is out of our hands regarding selection. I just have to keep playing how I am playing and hopefully I will be in a strong position. There are a lot of good back rows out there."

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