It's my job to make tough calls, insists Kidney
PROBLEMS mounted for Ireland coach Declan Kidney yesterday as Jonathan Sexton's bid for fitness was abandoned before lunch, just hours after wing Craig Gilroy was ruled out of this weekend's game.
And he must also sweat on the possibility, however remote, of Paddy Jackson missing out.
It's been a rough championship for Kidney, who cut a beleaguered figure yesterday.
His every decision is being queried and critiqued, from his choice for the captain's armband to the make-up of the 32 and now 23 man-squad.
"These calls have to be made. That's the role of the coach. It was a very tight call, but when you have to do your job, you have to do your job," said Kidney.
Kidney (right) does not deal with selection issues lightly. He involves his assistant coaches in the big decisions and, while we might question his conclusions on occasion, it has always been obvious that a great deal of thought and consideration are part of the process.
Yesterday, the coach announced the team that will take on France on Saturday. He chose to leave the out-half's identity officially unconfirmed, before confirming it would be Paddy Jackson ... if he's fit. The Ulster No 10 is a minor doubt, but he will "be fine."
"I'm told by the medical staff Paddy will be fully available for the weekend. He'll start, with Ian (Madigan) on the bench," said Kidney.
The tournament has been exasperating for the head coach. Ireland have gone from looking irresistible against Wales to looking ordinary and being beaten by average teams in England and Scotland.
"The last two results are obviously very disappointing," he added. "We put ourselves in a difficult position against Scotland, we spilled a few balls against England in the first half, got back to 6-6, but then penalties cost us in the second half.
"It's not like we're a million miles away from it, that's a fact. It's just about stringing a few things together and it will be a more positive result."
The task facing Ireland this weekend is a particularly daunting one. France are winless in this year's championship, but against England they began to show some signs of recovery and resurgence.
"I thought they were really strong, especially in that first hour at Twickenham," said Kidney. "And just that little thing went against them and then when they chased the game that probably played into England's hands."
The coach is taking solace from Ireland's recent performances against the 2011 World Cup finalists, not least the draw in Paris last season.
"I think we've played quite well against them, but if you just go purely on results it would look like we struggle against them," he said. "But performance-wise we've been knocking on the door in quite a number of those matches to get a result, but it hasn't gone our way."
In all, Kidney named three changes to the side. Cian Healy replaces Tom Court at loosehead prop, Mike McCarthy comes in for Donncha O'Callaghan and Fergus McFadden replaces Craig Gilroy.
He will also have a new replacement tighthead. Declan Fitzpatrick has suffered a calf injury so Michael Bent and Stephen Archer are now with the squad, and a decision between them will be made tomorrow.