Tuesday 20 March 2018

Hugh Farrelly: Kidney in dire need of a positive performance

- No Brian O’Driscoll
- No Gert Smal
- No specialised backs coach
- No Six Nations points


Hugh Farrelly

DECLAN KIDNEY is facing into the most challenging period of his coaching career after the latest setback to rock the Ireland camp saw forwards coach Gert Smal ruled out of the remainder of the Six Nations.

Already without injured captain and inspiration Brian O'Driscoll and with Les Kiss forced to juggle defensive and attacking duties following the departure of Alan Gaffney, Ireland go into today's clash with Italy desperate to make a positive statement following their opening defeat by Wales.

After the unfounded citing of Stephen Ferris in that match and the farcical cancellation of the France game in Paris the following week, Ireland's campaign has been dogged by disruption, with the loss of Smal, who needs time to recover from a long-standing eye condition, the latest body blow.

Kidney confirmed yesterday that Munster forwards and Ireland Wolfhounds coach Anthony Foley will take on Smal's duties for the rest of the tournament -- which could strengthen his claims on the Munster head coach's role, with Tony McGahan returning to Australia at the end of the season.

It all leaves Kidney in dire need of a positive performance this afternoon, particularly as the Ireland coach is under increased scrutiny since the World Cup quarter-final loss to the Welsh, and the challenge is heightened by being forced to play four internationals on successive weekends.

Stand-in captain Paul O'Connell, who has been overseeing the forwards this week in Smal's absence, admitted the team are feeling the pressure, and believes the players are ready to channel all their frustrations into a big display against Italy.

"We are frustrated with ourselves," said O'Connell. "There was the Welsh performance and not playing to our potential in that and the World Cup game. We want to produce a performance, for ourselves and the team, that merits the potential we have. That's where the pressure is."

Meanwhile, former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has declared his interest in replacing Brian McLaughlin as Ulster coach next season. Working as a pundit at last night's Pro12 clash between Ulster and the Ospreys, O'Sullivan was asked if he would like to take over the province and replied: "I am in the market for a job, we will see what happens. No one knows where this will lead."

Irish Independent

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