Sport Rugby

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Kidney must respect fans' opinions and make room for Stringer

Sean Diffley

To some of us, the most surprising aspect of the Autumn Series is that the man in charge, Declan Kidney, has been given such a soft ride.

Remember Eddie O'Sullivan? If he had presided over a less than spectacular series, he would have been hung, drawn and quartered.

But Kidney is lauded, despite some questionable player selections -- and don't let the brave display against the unbeatable All Blacks cloud the fact that there's a national coaching problem.

The Irish players on Saturday, subjected to a rash of criticism after the South Africa and Samoa matches, reacted brilliantly because their pride had been hurt. And, intermittently, they performed valiantly against a physically superior opposition.

But I doubt very much that the notably reticent Kidney has any of the talents of noted coaches like Bill Shankly, Vince Lombardi or Alex Ferguson, who, famously, have inspired their teams with fiery and effective rhetoric.

But all that is cloaked in the dressing-room and mere speculation.

However, what was clear to the 46,000 or so fans at Lansdowne Road on Saturday was the reception accorded to scrum-half Peter Stringer, who entered the match with 15 minutes left.


Stringer made an unforgettable impression when he was permitted to participate in the previous match and the buzz when he entered against the All Blacks was a late shot in the arm to his team-mates.

Surely the coach and his cohorts -- particularly the backs coach, Alan Gaffney -- must realise that the spectators are far from fools and their opinions must be respected. And surely it's ridiculous that a scrum-half who is a lightening provider of possession to his fellow backs should be marooned on the subs' bench.

Then there are the cases of Ronan O'Gara, brought on with just four minutes left; Devin Toner, the 6' 10" lock, who has already signalled his unique ability at just 24, only brought on to shelve up a dicey Irish area well into the second half and Mike Ross, a highly rated prop, who is not even in the squad.

And what about out-half Dan Carter being named Man of the match? He always enjoys the huge comfort of playing behind that awesome All Blacks pack, so I would make the excellent No 8 Kieran Read as my Man of the Match.

Suppose Stringer and O'Gara or Jonny Sexton were to play behind that All Blacks pack, wouldn't they be as world famous as Carter?

Half-backs are only as good as the possession they get from their forward pack.

Irish Independent

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