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Friday 15 December 2017

Kidney on warpath over late change to tackle law

Ireland boss unhappy as IRB tinker with rules in middle of Six Nations

Believe it or not, Declan Kidney is on the warpath.

There is a storm brewing between Ireland's mild-mannered coach and the International Rugby Board chief of refereeing Paddy O'Brien over the crass and one-eyed decision to implement the "emphasis" of a single law in the middle of the Six Nations Championship.

"I had a phone call with Paddy on the 20th of February. That was the first contact I had about it. We had already played two games. Then, I met him on Thursday," informed Kidney.

In the simplest terms, the tackler now has to release the tackled player once he is taken to the floor before making an attempt to poach the ball from him.

"In one section of the tackle law, if the tackler brings the player to the ground he has to let him go and challenge again," he said.

"But, it becomes a matter of whether he was brought to ground or whether he wrestled his way to the ground. There, the question is do you referee outcome or action?"

It is one thing to be aware of the situation, quite another to alter the habit of a season literally overnight. It is not the emphasis on the law, rather the timing of the instruction handed down through O'Brien that so annoyed Kidney.



Challenges

"I thought we had a good game. It seems to me that they talked about this down at Super 14. They talked about it two months before the season started.

"We're in the middle of competitions, not alone the Six Nations but the Heineken Cup and Magners League and now there is going to be a change. It presents challenges," Kidney added, in a most understated manner.

It was the closest we will probably ever get to a volcanic eruption from Mr Calm, Cool and Collected from Cork. Just for a moment, it seemed the concrete floor in the media room at Croke Park would crack and suck everyone beneath the surface.

"There has been mention of the change over the last few weeks. The first phone call I got from Paddy (O'Brien) was after round two of the Six Nations. There was a lot of talk about the tackle, the breakdown law. We sort of agreed to disagree on it.

"There was a request for a ruling. Paddy had been pushing for it early on. We met him on Thursday. We said it was unsatisfactory that midway through a championship emphasis on a particular law should be highlighted."

Was this another decision motivated from the southern hemisphere?

"That is where it appears to have originated," said Kidney.

"Like all teams, we are pawns, we have to try and find out what the story is. There is a process. There is a ruling down from the nominated members of the IRB.

"The Irish went home happy from Twickenham. I thought it was a good game there. But, what might be a good game to some people mightn't be a good game to others," in what was an obvious dig at the southern hemisphere's obsession with making the game more attack friendly.

Kidney was quick to emphasise how he had no problem with South African referee Craig Joubert, even though the crowd was obviously confused by the new, almost secretive, interpretation at the breakdown.

"We met Craig on Friday. He is the man with the whistle. In fairness, he did exactly what he said he would do," he said.

"It is hugely important the referee and coaches work with each other. The job of the referee is hugely difficult. If you go and talk to the referee and he does exactly what he tells you, that is the sign of a good man and a good referee.

"It is for the powers that be to decide on the emphasis. Paddy O'Brien is the man to instruct the referees," offered Kidney, turning the finger of blame back on O'Brien.

Wales coach Warren Gatland was more concerned with a third defeat in the Six Nations: "We are disappointed. The turnovers were costly for us. It appears we haven't learned the lessons from what happened against England.

"The key moment in the game, at 16-6, was a great scrum from Ireland. It was the turning point. If we had scored, it might have been a momentum swing," he said.

Although the Irish scrum creaked at times, there was no obvious domination by British and Irish Lions prop Adam Jones, a renowned operator in that area of set-piece play.



Invaluable

Ireland loosehead Cian Healy was fast-tracked into international rugby. He is learning quickly as the challenges come thick and fast.

"Jones is a very good scrummager. I hadn't really propped against him before. He had me in one or two bad positions. But, we got our own back in one or two as well, so I was happy enough with it," stated Healy.

"The Six Nations has been invaluable. It has been a whole new level of scrummaging. I am learning different tricks with every game."

In fact, there were occasions when Healy, Rory Best and John Hayes turned adversity into triumph, most obviously in that crucial second-half scrum.

"We just knew we were under pressure. When you have a scrum on your five-metre line, there is always an element of pressure. We just had to come together for it. It is a huge matter of concentration. It is very easy to switch off. You have to have everyone focused in on the job," said Healy.

Of course, Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll could have been forgiven for losing his focus given the momentous occasion. He was clearly moved at the singing of the national anthem.

"It was a different game, a different feeling, probably more emotional than I thought it would be. It was massive, a fantastic honour to play for my country 100 times," he said. And long may he continue.

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