Rory Best: Kidney speculation not affecting us
Rory Best insists Ireland have brushed aside speculation over the future of head coach Declan Kidney amid preparations for their must-win RBS 6 Nations clash with France.
Successive defeats by England and Scotland have seen calls for Kidney to step down intensify and it appears unlikely he will be in place for the summer tour to North America.
Defeat to winless France, who have also been a flop in this championship, in Dublin next Saturday would nudge Kidney closer to the exit and place Ireland on a wooden spoon collision course with Italy.
"It's not a difficult environment to work in. Only two or three weeks ago we were talking about players' contracts," Best said.
"It's professional sport. We're in it as a team and squad, and that includes the management.
"We have two games left to play and we must finish well. It will be tough against France, but we're back at home.
"We will have to be much more efficient at putting away the chances that we create than we have been. We prepared to beat Scotland and didn't. Our standards have slipped because we expect to win these games.
"But we still have a lot of confidence in the ability in this squad."
Best has offered strong support to Ulster team-mate Paddy Jackson, whose poor kicking performance contributed to Ireland's 12-8 defeat by Scotland on Sunday.
Jackson is the only member of the starting XV to have been released for RaboDirect PRO12 action this weekend and he will be given the kicking duties against Benetton Treviso tonight, a role he does not usually fulfil for his province.
"When you're a professional player not everything goes perfectly for you. Paddy's a fantastic talent, a great player with a great attitude," Best said.
"His general play was very good, but under the type of microscope that's on Test rugby every detail is analysed.
"It's unrealistic to think that you will go through your career without having moments when things didn't go so well.
"Great players dust themselves down and critically analyse what they did and try to get better the next week.
"Even at this young age Paddy has had a few moments at Ulster, but has bounced back strongly. That's the type of guy he is and why he will bounce back from this."