Kidney cubs 'seize' day
Ireland coach hails young tyros for taking their big opportunity by filleting Fiji
IT was All White on the night for Ireland as Ulster's young guns fired the first and decisive shots against a woefully inept Fiji in an insignificant non-international downpour of eight tries (53-0) at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.
There was a hat-trick for the dazzling wing Craig Gilroy and one each from centres Darren Cave and Luke Marshall, not to forget a pair of aces from Leinster's Fergus McFadden, as seven of the eight tries were provided by numbers 11 to 14.
The Fijians were rightly annoyed to be planted into a backwater, non-international contest where 10 of the players who started against England seven days previously were simply disinterested in playing ball.
There was, however, more intent when it came to playing the man, and often late, the most dangerous example coming from Toulouse wing Timoci Matanavou's 'tip-tackle' on Conor Murray. Luckily, Murray was able to free his left arm to break his fall.
"There are certainly a few selection choices alright," said coach Declan Kidney, in a nod to the performances of some of his youthful charges.
"You ask fellas to go out and seize the opportunity. They've done that. We must reflect on the match, the way it went, the type of game it was and what is the best fit for next weekend. It is a new time for Irish rugby. There is a whole new squad coming through. Some fellas got their chance and showed they want more of it," he said.
These are the sort of encouraging, all-embracing comments that have marked Kidney's career as a coach. He would rather talk about everyone than anyone in particular.
However, Ulster's Andrew Trimble was a peripheral figure on the wing against South Africa last Saturday week. He is not a footballer. That is why he has been moved sideways from centre to wing as his career has developed.
His club-mate Gilroy was Man of the Match on Saturday and the match ball-keeping producer of three tries that put on show a cocktail of aggression, speed, footwork and the nose for the whitewash.
Is he good enough for international rugby? That remains to be seen. Kidney will not find out until he throws Gilroy into the feverish grip of The Pumas.
This is not a crusade for the promotion of Gilroy. There are questions to be answered, mainly about his suspect defence. Kidney has a selection headache. Let Gilroy be the remedy.
The professional era has removed any scent of romance and turned every IRFU decision made into a cold-hard, financial reality.
The simple fact is that all home internationals are contracted to be played at The Aviva Stadium. In this case, it would have led to a half-empty stadium and a dreaded financial loss on the day.
So, the IRFU put the best interests of its players and the badly treated Fijians to one side in favour of protecting the balance sheets. Good financial sense; bad rugby sense.
The removal of the 'international' label must have been absorbed by Fiji as kicking a weaker nation when it was down. Thus, their players downed tools at work and accepted their fate.
Of course, the transparency of Fiji's careless, uncommitted attitude served to give a schewed view of how Ireland's young players acquitted themselves on the night of their lives.
Kidney's thinking was not clear-minded. This was a chance to see into the future. He went part of the way.
There was no conceivable benefit from the starting presence of Munster's Denis Hurley and Donncha O'Callaghan, Leinster's Mike Ross and Connacht's John Muldoon.
At least Jamie Heaslip could recapture the winning feeling as a captain. "The last couple of weeks, we've trained really well," he said. "The knock-on effect is that we came close last week and this week we got some good returns.
"We're obviously not going to let it all go to our heads at all. We know what's on the horizon now."
It is just as well. This exercise was about as useful to Kidney as a 'captain without a cause'.