Friday 17 November 2017

Kidney takes positives after fringe players put hands up

Brendan Fanning, at Murrayfield

Ireland's World Cup warm-up series came within two minutes of a positive start at Murrayfield yesterday when Declan Kidney's largely second-choice selection were overhauled by a Scotland try.

The Ireland coach said he was very disappointed to have lost a game 10-6 they were so close to winning, but added that there were no injuries of any concern in the camp after what was a dull contest with only that one try.

"They put a lot of pressure on our defence and our attack didn't take much pressure off our defence," he said. "We had to defend for long periods of time. It held up pretty well but in attack we'd need to look at hanging onto the ball a bit longer."

The main positives for Kidney were in the successful return of long-term injury victims Rob Kearney and Jerry Flannery. Tomás O'Leary also had no injury concerns when he was replaced for the last quarter by Isaac Boss.

It was notable that Kearney was left on the field for the full game despite this being his first outing since last November. Kidney said that it hadn't been part of the pre-match plan to leave him there.

"No, not really -- I knew that there were two or three guys that I could have changed there. I could have done a direct swap between himself and Felix (Jones) but I know how he's been running in training and I know where I want to go with it over the next week or two.

"So while he did cramp up at the end he was confident that he could finish the 80 minutes. It's always a slight gamble when a guy being out for 10 months and he starts off with 80 minutes. He was motoring really well at training so I felt he was good for the 80 minutes."

Nevertheless, Luke Fitzgerald will see it as significant that he was called ashore instead of Kearney to allow Jones win his first cap. If Kidney runs with a 17-13 split between backs and forwards, there will be intense competition between Jones, Fitzgerald and Fergus McFadden.

Mike McCarthy was the other new cap on the day and Kidney gave him the full game as well. The squad reconvenes tonight to prepare for the France Test in Bordeaux on Saturday when the coach will make wholesale changes to yesterday's 22.

See Page 5

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