Wednesday 21 March 2018

Kidney calls for greater focus on home talent

Hugh Farrelly

DECLAN KIDNEY has said the sooner the Irish rugby system changes its focus to bringing through home-grown players, the better.

Last December, the IRFU outlined their Player Succession Strategy, which intends to limit the use of overseas stars in the provinces and provide more exposure to Irish-qualified players.

And, after Ireland's weakness at tight-head prop was brutally exposed by England on Saturday, the Ireland coach said it is imperative that there are more Irish-qualified options in every position.

"Everyone knew that if Mike Ross went down that we could be in trouble," said Kidney, who lost his tight-head prop in the first half.

"You can complicate this all you want, but we turned over the ball, that gave them scrums, they got penalties out of the scrums. Game over. It's not something you can fast-track and have a solution tomorrow, but I think it's something blatantly obvious that needs to be sorted.

"Unless we take some affirmative action ... we just have to have some Irish tight-head props coming through."

Kidney won a Grand Slam in his first season in charge, but his fourth Six Nations campaign yielded only two victories, against Italy and Scotland. However, he does not believe this represents the end of an era and is convinced Ireland can recover in time for the daunting summer tour to New Zealand.

"No it's not era-ending, this is a completely different side from the side that won the Grand Slam," he said.

"In some matches there are fine margins and, if we went back to the start of the championship, everyone talked about building momentum. If you get momentum in that first match, that can be a different ship to sail.

"This hurts, it hurts a lot, and if it didn't hurt, we shouldn't be here. It's obviously disappointing, but such is life and you just have to keep yourself looking forward until the next one."

Kidney defended his selection policy which saw him start only 18 players in the championship, the only changes being due to withdrawals, despite having to play four Tests on successive weekends.


"It is a difficult task (four matches in a row), but New Zealand and France did it to get to a World Cup final. That's what you have to do.

"You also guard how much training you do during the week and had we changed the whole pack then we would have had to do a whole lot more training. We don't have the numbers; England and South Africa are sides that can afford to do that," he added.

On a positive note, Kidney is optimistic that forwards coach Gert Smal, who has been unavailable with an illness that affects his eyesight, will be back in time for the tour to New Zealand.

"He's starting to recover now," said Kidney. "I'll give him another week or two before we sit down and see how he is faring, but there's every sign he will be good for June."

The Ireland coach preferred not to comment on allegations that Stephen Ferris was bitten by an English opponent.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport