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Players not gaining from faster, tougher, harder overtime

I see Tony Ward is yet another under the cosh for some, er, reservations, about the continuing reign of Ireland head coach Declan Kidney.

Well, let me say that I join Wardy in his particular tepee in the belief that Kidney's strategies and selectorial gambits are becoming distinctly baroque – such as picking a scrum-half who takes an aeon to get the ball away.

And there's worse. What on earth is the rationale of introducing Ronan O'Gara from the bench with only a few seconds left? And not just once. Several times. The only explanation I can offer is that Kidney is perpetrating a few of Tommy Cooper's bad jokes.

All of which poses the question as to who will be the best successor to Kidney. There doesn't appear to be any Irish in the queue, perhaps only Anthony Foley, so I suppose the brains trust will scour the slopes of New Zealand or Australia for the replacement, or perhaps a large man from South Africa – everyone knows that they don't have any small men there.

That the Irish team has a poor record recently is not entirely the result of coaching mistakes.

The autumn and summer Tests are modern professional fixtures whose main functions are to raise finance to help augment the coffers of the International Rugby Board.

In my view, those Test matches are a considerable step too far, principally because the players are too tired, too discomfited, too overplayed. It's like some of the rest of us, long working hours at the office and then overwhelmed with hours of overtime.

Last weekend's fare is a graphic example. Players in the Six Nations will tell you that whatever about the Heineken Cup, international matches are tougher, harder and much faster.

The Irish and South Africans engaged in a more modest affair. And an All Blacks team strolled through an embarrassingly absent Scottish defence, as an Argentinian team did to Wales in Cardiff.

And in Paris the usually flamboyant Australians looked like a Third A side as the French indulged in all their traditional finery – something they have not been permitted to use for ages.

The future? We may have a spot of bother against the determined and ambitious Argentina next week but the game is in good condition and, credit where credit is due, is being well promoted by the IRFU.

And an interesting footnote: during the week I heard a radio interview and what was obviously a rural dweller who said where he lived, the towns "down the road" all had rugby clubs nowadays as well as the parish GAA clubs.

And following the McGuinness and Donegal affair, we're all getting on well together.

Irish Independent