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Kidney: I'll run the shop and it will be the way I want it run

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Kidney is under pressure to ensure that Ireland remain among the second seeds for the 2015 World Cup.

Kidney is under pressure to ensure that Ireland remain among the second seeds for the 2015 World Cup.

Kidney is under pressure to ensure that Ireland remain among the second seeds for the 2015 World Cup.

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has brushed off any suggestions that he is under pressure as he enters the final year of his IRFU contract.

And, despite calls from within his own squad for Leinster's Joe Schmidt to be added to the coaching ticket, he also ruled out any immediate change in the backroom set-up by declaring: "I'm in charge."

Kidney is under pressure to ensure that Ireland remain among the second seeds for the 2015 World Cup, which will be decided following the November internationals against South Africa and Argentina.

And the man who led Ireland to a Grand Slam in 2009, their first in 61 years, will also be expected to improve upon last season's Six Nations, in which they finished a distant third to winners Wales after two wins and a draw from their five games.

"My situation doesn't matter," said Kidney, whose contract expires next summer. "The only thing that matters is that we do well. That's been the only pressure I've been under from day one.

"I'll be here for a while, coaches are the same as players, you're here for a while, so you make the most of everything. We've a fantastic occasion coming up, so that's the only thing I'm worried about."

Kidney emphasised that "he runs the shop" as he dismissed any proposals to add to his coaching staff, despite a suggestion from Sean O'Brien that Schmidt's involvement "could come naturally" for the Kiwi.

"I'll take responsibility for everything that happens," Kidney continued.

"I'm really fortunate to have the quality of men with me. Titles are titles. I've had this structure in Munster where we've won before, guys doing defence also did the backs with me and then we had a collective wisdom along with that.

"I'll run the shop and it will be the way I want it to run. I wouldn't envisage any changes."

The parallels with 2008 are eerily similar, however. An Irish coach was required to energise a team, one whose confidence was in complete tatters, and ensure they managed to squeeze their way among the second seeds for the following World Cup.

They did so in an unforgettable scrap against Argentina.

Then, three months later, the squad held a no-holds barred meeting where they honestly confronted issues like provincial parochialism and fidelity to the national jersey. By the following spring, that Ireland team under Kidney won a memorable Grand Slam.

Fast forward four years and Ireland are at a similar crossroads -- again Kidney must ensure that Argentina are overcome to preserve Ireland's status as second seeds. This time, the Irish players have congregated much sooner in an attempt to halt what has been a dramatic slide since that Grand Slam success.

"There's bound to be parallels in terms of the timing," admits Kidney. "But a World Cup is a cycle all on its own. Then sometimes it takes a little bit of regrouping.

"What happened in Enfield went into a little bit of folklore. All of a sudden we win a Grand Slam and everybody's wondering what the reason is for it. While that meeting was helpful, it wasn't the be all and end all.

"One of the truths of it is that when we came together for it, we invited 30 in after a match and found out only 12 could train. So, we could nothing to do with them and we decided to have a meeting.

Judged

"At every meeting we've had, we've looked at areas we can improve. Obviously, after the severe disappointment of the last match (60-0 defeat to New Zealand), which is what you're judged on, it really focuses the mind and you can get to the kernel of things."

Despite the issues that have emerged from the August summit, Kidney refuses to believe that there is a growing disconnect between the Irish public and its national team.

"That can come down to a perception. I'm in the very privileged position of being national coach and representing Ireland anywhere, people are mad keen for Ireland to succeed.

"We live in different times in the amount of money people have, that's bound to have an affect on everything, but that's only natural."

In an effort to improve results, his captain has already declared that the coach will be selecting on the basis of form and not reputation. Kidney endorses the philosophy in theory. Ireland's supporters will await the practice.

"You always try to pick on form," he insisted. "You don't hand out a green jersey easily. There will always be good debates about form.

"I believe a lot of the time the team will by and large pick itself and then I'll have to step in and make decisions about a few places and there will be good bar debate about those decisions.

"If 15 players are playing well and the team picks itself, happy days for me. No problem. But the job of the coach is when fellahs are playing at equal standards. So, if there are 30 fellahs playing really well, someone has to make the choice and that's the role of the coach.

"And that's what we want, we want 30 fellahs playing really well."

Whatever decisions Kidney makes will be crucial -- because the pressure is on to win matches.

"They're games we need to win for a whole host of reasons," he says of the pivotal tests against South Africa and, specifically, Argentina.

"It's our next time out in an Irish jersey. No matter when you do that, it's a case of representing your country to the best of your ability.

"There's the added thing that the last game went badly wrong and we want to rectify that.

"And there's the Rugby World Cup. We must maintain our top-eight ranking, because we will have to live with that for the next three years."

Whether Kidney is living with it as Ireland coach may depend on whether he can keep his seventh-ranked side within the top eight in world rugby.

Irish Independent