England contest could decide Declan Kidney's Ireland fate, as well as the Grand Slam

 

Dublin

With his future tied to Ireland's fate in this Six Nations, coach Declan Kidney has stuck with his strongest hand for the potential Grand Slam decider with England on Sunday.

Despite injury concerns over Gordon D'Arcy, Peter O'Mahony and Keith Earls, all three have been passed by the medics as Ireland stick to the same 23 which won in Wales last weekend.

The trio's fitness will have been a relief to the coach, whose current contract expires in June. The Irish Rugby Football Union have yet to open talks about extending deal. How his team fare in the next four matches will certainly have a bearing.

Kidney has been feeling the squeeze since the two countries met in Twickenham last March when England bulldozed the Irish scrum en route to comfortable 30-9 win. What followed for the Irish was a disastrous summer tour to New Zealand where their 3-0 whitewash at the hands of the All Blacks was completed with a humiliating 60-0 defeat in Hamilton.

But having been backed into a corner, Kidney has broken with his normal conservative manner which has always seen him trust experience rather than gamble on youth. During November he capped Ulster winger Craig Gilroy, 21, Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne, then 23, and Ulster's striking back row Iain Henderson, 20. The turf-burning winger Simon Zebo, 22, also earned his second and third caps in the loss to South Africa and the win over Argentina which allowed the Irish to hold onto their second seeding for the 2015 World Cup.

Injuries may have forced the coach's hand to a degree, but he has also installed two seasoned campaigners who have arrived late to the Test scene in Connacht's Mike McCarthy, 31, and Munster's Donnacha Ryan, 29, in the second row.

In total nine personnel changes have been made from the mauling Ireland received just under 12 months ago in London. Although Irish captain Jamie Heaslip tried his best to downplay this weekend's match as an opportunity to seek revenge, the Leinster No 8 harbours a tremendous pain from the loss.

"I haven't really looked back at the England game an awful lot, it was grim enough in the changing room afterwards, it was a tough place to be," recalled Heaslip yesterday. "It was not a proud moment as a professional. Certainly, you bank them; any big loss you have to bank them. But the engineer in me allows me to be somewhat clinical and prevent the emotion coming into it too much when you're preparing for a game. Once you do have the clarity in your job role then you let your emotion out through your actions; that's when you bring out that sort of stuff. You dig deep for that."

Kidney, too, tried to reinforce the message that the Irish could ill-afford to let emotions run riot ahead of 80 minutes that will require the same clinical execution that they displayed until early in the second half against Wales.

"You have to just work hard to make sure it doesn't come into it," said Kidney. "The game itself is the same when you analyse it and let you emotions just settle down. It will be an extremely physical challenge, both technically and tactically. England are going to push us in every single way and they're the bits we have to be right for. We just have to put the emotion of the whole thing to one side. That's sometimes easier said than done."

As for Kidney's future, the IRFU are handling the situation with that same type of cold analysis and emotional detachment and the fact that the coach guided Ireland to their first Grand Slam in 61 years back in 2009 carries little weight now.

The Six Nations fixture list also haunts him like an idle henchman in the gallows. In the odd-numbered years Ireland play host to France and England which lends to an accepted logic that these seasons are their best chances at winning a Slam.

A tough hurdle has been overcome in the shape of Wales. If the Irish can beat England, then only the challenge of an off-colour French team in Dublin on 9 March should remain in the way of a clean sweep.

However, defeat could set Ireland off course and leave Kidney swimming against a tide from which he may not recover.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor