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The day I take flair out of a player is the day I stop coaching - Gaffney

IRELAND backs coach Alan Gaffney says the squad are committed to their expansive game plan, despite criticism that more kicking for territory could have secured victory against France.

"The day that I take the flair out of a player is the day I stop coaching," said Gaffney yesterday. "We have to rely on the judgment of the players. We can guide the players, but they make the decisions and a lot of those are done on the spur of the moment and I'll back every decision a player makes. If we haven't got confidence in the player, we haven't got a team.

"I know there is some contention that we didn't kick the ball enough, but I can only think of two times in the game when that would have been done on our own conditions," he added.

"You can't rely on stats, but you know Jonny Sexton only passed the ball 10 times in the whole game -- that doesn't give you the idea that we're running everything. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but these boys are making split-second decisions.

"There was the time after the turnover of Cian Healy, we went down the right and gave away a penalty at the breakdown and they kicked three points from it; people say we should have kicked down into the corner.

"The thing was we had five on three, four backs and a forward versus two forwards and a back: if we had executed well, the crowd would have been on their feet saying that was a great decision to run the ball. We didn't execute so then it is 'we should have kicked'-- in hindsight," said Gaffney.

"The other occasion is when the ball didn't go 10 from the restart and we had a midfield scrum, should we have kicked to the corner and attacked the line-out? Possibly, but the boys were confident to play that play down the left, and it didn't happen.

"If the ball goes to hand, Earlsy (Keith Earls) is in a lot of space and could have scored a try. In hindsight, we should have kicked to the corner but hindsight is a wonderful thing."

Given Ronan O'Gara's contributions off the bench against Italy and France and his excellent form for Munster -- who he guided to an impressive win over Edinburgh last Friday -- there have been concerted calls for a change at out-half ahead of the team being announced today.

However, Gaffney praised the contribution of Sexton yesterday and said Ireland were incredibly lucky to have access to two quality out-halves.

"I thought Jonny Sexton played very well (against France)," said Gaffney. "Someone asked me a question a few weeks ago, was Jonny Sexton the best 10 in Europe. My reply then is the same as now -- we have got two outstanding out-halves.

"It is a great contest and they both bring different things to the table. We are not going to be lessened by playing either of them."

Gaffney admitted there was acute disappointment in the camp following the defeat to France, despite Ireland scoring three tries to one and almost snatching victory in the thrilling end-game: "We were very disappointed with what happened, knowing the result was within our grasp and we didn't take it.

"We made some unforced errors that were unfortunate, but they happen in games.

"We thought we played well in patches, but didn't put it together for the 80 minutes. Some of those penalties were avoidable, some contentious and I think some rulings are been sought at the present time on those areas."

Irish Independent