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Gods desert Kidney

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Ireland head coach Declan Kidney. Pic: Sportsfile

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney. Pic: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney. Pic: Sportsfile

THE gods have not been smiling on Ireland coach Declan Kidney lately or his out-half Jonathan Sexton for that matter.

The Leinster playmaker had side-stepped all the various landmines on the road to recovery from a grade two hamstring tear only to fall to a tendon injury to his left foot yesterday.

Conversely, the gods have shown a level of leniency, even charity, to Paddy Jackson. The Ulster man returns for his third cap in this Six Nations campaign with Ian Madigan promoted for bench duty again.

For all of Kidney's mistakes in selection and misfortune from injury, he has maintained a dignified front to the media when he could easily see them as the enemy.

The Cork man has been courteous, affable and professional in his dealings on what could be the last competitive week of his tenure.

Kidney claimed Italy would be "sniffing blood against us and think we will be vulnerable" on the back of how close they ran England last Sunday.

"If we can go out and represent Ireland to the best of our ability and come away with a win, that would be quite an achievement," he said.

"It is a recognition of how strong Italy have got. It is their clubs' third year in the Rabo' (League). They have been getting stronger each year."

As expected, Craig Gilroy returns for the injured Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald restricted to a role from the replacements as Ireland put on show what must be the smallest three-quarter line in top-tier international rugby.

 

Ruthlessness

The streak of ruthlessness that has been Kidney's hallmark this season continues with what could be the death knell of Donncha O'Callaghan's international career.

Leinster lock Devin Toner makes the bench ahead of the Munster veteran as a change of strategy rather than a simple one-on-one comparison.

"I would say Donncha is a long way from his last cap. It is a selection for this match. There are many more to come," said Kidney.

"The Italy lineout is very strong. It just helps to have the balance on that side this time. Devin has been going well for us in training too."

There is another angle there too. It really calls into question the durability of lineout caller Donnacha Ryan, who has been seriously hampered by an injury to his AC shoulder joint.

The suspicion must be that Ryan will give as much as he can for as long as he can before Toner will be asked to take over the lineout.

The Meath man can also pack down on the tight-head side of the scrum to provide a wider versatility for Mike McCarthy, who is less than 100pc too.

This is a reasonable decision between Toner and O'Callaghan, one the management may have spotted as a mistake against France that needed rectifying.

Ireland will travel to Rome with the knowledge that it could be the last game for Brian O'Driscoll. It probably will be for Kidney.


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