Backward Step for Kidney

Does this man have a grand plan for Ireland? (c) Art Widak.

Declan Kidney has made four changes to the Ireland team for Saturday’s 2nd test against the All Blacks. While that’s not even a third of the team, the impression is that Kidney is looking for what the Whiff of Cordite calls “damage limitation” on Saturday. I’d love to be proven wrong, but these changes are a backward step for Ireland in my opinion. After including Zebo, Fitzpatrick and O’Mahony last week, the impression I had was that Kidney was finally looking to develop this team. It was belated, but I was encouraged.

As highlighted in that excellent Whiff of Cordite piece, this looks like a “rainy-day selection”, with the focus being on keeping the score down. So why did Kidney send out a fresh-faced team last week and look to move the ball around the pitch at pace? I may be proven wrong, but it looks as though it was a one-off experiment. So what was the point? As head coach of the national team, is Kidney not supposed to have a grand vision of how he wants his team to develop? Frankly, this ‘back to basics’ selection gives the impression that Deccie doesn’t have any concrete idea of where Ireland are going.

I for one refused to castigate the Irish performance last weekend. The opening 20 minutes encouraged me and I was hoping for more of that, done more accurately and with quicker ball. The likes of Zebo, O’Mahony and Fitzpatrick learned valuable lessons and I was hoping they could learn even more this weekend. But they’re dropped, and Trimble, D’Arcy and Ross return, with Kevin McLaughlin also included. The inclusions of D’Arcy and Trimble are the most defensive changes and are certainly a backward step. I understand that there are ‘horses for courses’ and that rain is predicted for Saturday, but does that mean the All Blacks drop Aaron Smith for the experience of Weepu, or Retallick for the solidity of Ali Williams? Not a chance.

Simon Zebo heads for the line copy

Zebo drops to the bench, with Trimble replacing him. (c) Ivan O’Riordan.

D’Arcy comes in because of the injury to Earls but it’s still not the right selection for me. D’Arcy was impressive in Leinster’s run to the Heineken Cup, but his form for Ireland for at least a year now has been poor. He’ll make his tackles and he’ll grind out a few metres in contact. But what about Darren Cave? He had a disastrous cameo at the end of the 1st test, lucky not to be yellow-carded and partly at fault for Conrad Smith’s try. Now he’s out of the squad completely, after 8 minutes of action. Why not give him another chance, send him out with a more relaxed attitude and tell him to play his game?

Kidney knows exactly what D’Arcy offers to the team. This tour had to be about developing the Irish squad. While I’m not saying Kidney should be sending out teams to get beaten, we need to give these guys experience. Cave’s confidence will surely now be crushed and he’ll question whether he’s up to this level at all. Or what about playing McFadden in his best position at 12? Simon Zebo, one missed tackle aside, did just fine on his debut, showing a glimpse of his attacking thrust. Now he’s dropped to the bench to accomodate Trimble, another player who Kidney knows all about.

Fitzpatrick was the personification of the word ‘solid’ on his first cap. He never went backwards in the scrum and he contributed a few tackles around the pitch. I would’ve allowed him to keep the starting tighthead role, even if he were to come off at half-time. It might well work out that he plays 40 minutes anyway, but let him have the opening half, when Tony Woodcock really wants to prove his point. A second consecutive start for the Ulster prop would have been great experience for Fitzpatrick, especially after Deccie complained about the lack of that exact attribute.


Kevin McLaughlin is in at blindside. (c) Ken Bohane.

The inclusion of Kevin McLaughlin at blindside is at least a positive. I would temper that by suggesting that the Leinster back-row has been selected for his prowess at the lineout and his defensive hunger. He’s an excellent player and I’m a huge fan, but McLaughlin’s selection again alludes to a defensive game plan. The major plus to including him is that Sean O’Brien may be spared the mountain of defensive work he got through last Saturday. But will we see O’Brien in the right places to use his strength and power on the ball? I don’t think we have yet this season.

I always make a big effort to look at the positives before each Ireland game. Kidney hasn’t done a good job with Ireland in the last few years, but I’m always willing to believe that coaches, just as players and people in general, can change. However, it looks like that just isn’t the case in this situation. Even if Ireland make it scrappy and limit New Zealand to just a few scores in the rain, what value is there in that? I want to see an Irish team that is confident and skillful enough to go out and look to beat every team they face.  I believe we have the players to do that, if we can develop the team in the right way.

What do you think of the changes Kidney has made? Can Ireland stay close to the All Blacks on Saturday or will it only get worse? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve written? Please leave a comment with your views.


Photos courtesy: Art Widak, Ivan O’Riordan, Ken Bohane.

13 responses to “Backward Step for Kidney

  1. Have to agree with you on most of that Murray. As far as who to put in for the injured Earls I would have to go with Trimble. Hes a powerful player great in the tackle and makes some good breaks. I honestly think he should be the starting 12.

    • Yeah he does offer all of that and in fairness if Kidney is going for solidity and physicality, then Trimble offers both those things. He hasn’t played in the centre for a long time now though, and stepping into the centre from the wing is a big ask, especially against the All Blacks.

      What about putting McFadden into 12, where he looks more comfortable, keeping Zebo on the left wing and playing Trimble in his natural position on the right wing. If any of our wingers would be up to the task of matching Savea physically, it would be Trimble. Strange decision to leave McFadden there, especially when he has probably played more on the left wing for Leinster!

  2. Spot on with this one Murray. Ireland need/deserve an international manager that can translate the gains made at provincial and under age level onto the international stage, not a manager that stagnates momentum by falling back on his under achieving old reliables.

  3. I guess Kidneys decision means that Redden is going to start the third test, where the squad will be depleted most due to injuries and fatigue meaning that we won’t know for sure how Redden and Sexton would have fared against Smith and Carter. I don’t know how he can justify starting Murray again seeing as not only was he off his game (box kicks were very poor) but the game Ireland were trying to play quite clearly suited Redden’s quick and snappy delivery better.

    I would agree with you in relation to Darren Cave, one could only imagine that his confidence is shook and he could have at least been included on the bench. It will be interesting to see whether he is included in the squad for the third test.

    I think its fairly obvious to all Irish fans that in bringing D’Arcy and Trimble in,it is the safe option and it is totally against what these tests were meant to be about. It was clear from Kidneys initial squad selection that he was trying to save his own backside, rather then trying to breed new blood-confirmed by the omissions of Madigan and Gilroy.
    Hopefully the players themselves will dig deep at the weekend for themselves and come out with a big performance which builds on the opening twenty minutes of last weekend.

    • Agree with everything you say Simon. The selection of Murray for that particular game plan was the wrong call. I thought Murray could speed up his delivery but it didn’t happen. In fairness, lots of people called it before the game, so it’s not even the benefit of hindsight to say that Reddan should have started with that game plan.

      His justification for starting Murray will be if the game plan changes and Ireland look to slow the game down when they’re in possession, try to take less risks in attack and defend solidly. Murray’s the right call in that situation, but why not continue with what we saw in that first 20 last week. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think we will.

      Still, as you say hopefully the players can come up with a big performance. I just worry that a backs-against-the-wall, balls out display of doggedness won’t bring the team forward in any way, whereas having trying to develop out style of play and giving the more inexperienced players more game time would.

  4. Roryokane_raz_

    Good piece, i believe McLaughlin deserves his place over o’Mahony who was poor and on form doesnt deserve to be selected ahead of Henry either in my opinion. Fitzpatrick and Ross is a toss up, two very solid scrummagers bu who offer little around the park, i think this is a straight forward call as fitzpatrick shud get at least 30 mins action. D’Arcy is an awful shout above Cave, we learn nothing from it and I feel cave deserves a start. the inclusion of trimble doesnt shock me, he’s the best person to stop savea, however the dropping of zebo is wrong, Mcfadden should have been dropped, i dont believe he is an international class winger, or a centre after the wales game, i think he was at fault defensively for 3 of Nz tries, I think McFadden is the prime example of an Irish player not becoming the best he can be for lack of game time at provinacial level, he’s 26 now and he can only get a game at leinster due to injuries (an not even in his favoured position) I know its early in his career but for me the jury is out on whether mcfadden ever will be a test standart player, due to his lack of exposure in his early 20’s he shud have taken the offer from leicester 3 seasons ago, Imo. whereas zebo was for arguably one and despite the try showed nothing going forward. For zebo it would have been a massive learning curve. Again kidney shows his true colours, the only surprise is that he didnt include Do’C

    • Fair points all of them. I have no problem with Ross and Fitzpatrick offering very litte around the park. Their job is to lock out and hopefully get on top at scrumtime. If they contribute anything else, it’s a bonus.

      On McFaddan, I’m a fan so probably a bit biased, but I think he has performed really well for Leinster at 12 when given the chance. The only problem if that those chances are not in the big games in the H-Cup. Next season, I hope we’ll see him move past D’Arcy. A possible move to Leicester probably would have been a good thing, but do you think he’d be in the Irish squad if he was over playing in the Premiership? Highly unlikely. He was obviously discouraged and that’s something we’ve repeatedly siad needs to be looked at. Would it not have been better for Irish rugby to have McFadden playing more regularly over there, than coming in for Leinster is so man different positions when injuries strike. If he had moved to England, then the likes of Carr, D.Kearney and Conway would’ve already seen more action too.

      Trimble is the best person to stop Savea, but he’s picked on the left wing! McFadden is up against Savea again.

  5. It IS a backward step with a sideways wobble built in. As may be obvious, I am not a fan of Reddan, but I think the ressurection of D’Arcy and Trimble add insult to injury in his case. Remember, when the IRFU were looking for a replacement and Kidney appeared to be the only Irish option, Reddan openly spoke out about the need for a Southern Hemisphere candidate.

    Was Kidney miffed?

    Right now, we do not have a stand-out scrum half, in my opinion. So, perhaps discussion is limited to the respective merits of players who would probably find it difficult to break into any other International side.

    But with wings and centres, we have has-berms and those with potential on this tour.

    The Ross/Fitzpatrick issue you have summarized brilliantly. But D’OC on the bench? Retrograde.

    • Yeah I didn’t look at the issue of scrumhalf in the piece, because that’s a whole debate in itself. If, as looks the case, Kidney is looking to reduce things to a physical, ‘trench warfare’ type of game, then Murray is probably the right call. We saw his one-on-one tackle in the first half save a try, when Reddan would have been run over.

      But then last week the game plan needed quick delivery, so why not pick Reddan for that specific purpose. I did back Murray to speed things up, but it didn’t happen. I would hope that Kidney doesn’t let something like Reddan’s comments blind his judgement as that would be ridiculously unprofessional.

      Agree that there’s not a stand-out scrumhalf at the moment, the amount of debate around it highlights that. Yeah, having D’OC and ROG on the bench is again a case of knowing exactly what those players can do.

  6. True enough, That would be two fairly big and strong wingers for Kearney to run off, not to mention punch a few holes themselves.
    Im not sure what kidney is at on the mcFadden front either, maybe he knows something we dont.

  7. Frankly, I’m not at all looking forward to watching this match – why would I? We’re going in to lose, with no mindset for anything else. It is – literally – pointless. It only serves to reiterate what we all already know. , etc., etc.

    • Pointless is damn right. Why the hell are we in New Zealand if we’re not going to have a real go at beating them, or at least look at developing the team for success further down the line.

      I have to admit that I am looking forward to the game, but for all the wrong reasons. The All Blacks are a joy to watch. Obviously I don’t enjoy Ireland being hammered, but their style of play is just so good to watch!

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