herald

Sunday 18 November 2018

Tight spot for Kidney

Ross's injury exposes chronic lack of depth in a vital position

IRELAND have shown they can survive without Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell. They have also shown they cannot work off a team-sheet that doesn't have Mike Ross on it.

To point the finger of blame at Tom Court is unfair. The Brisbane-born prop came to Ulster as a possible tight-head solution and was soon moved across to the loose side.

It serves no valuable purpose to look for a single scapegoat. Court has been just about able to make a nuisance of himself at loose-head for his province.



Bubbling

The four provincial academies are working hard to bring through tight-head props and there are a number of them bubbling beneath the surface, such as Ulster's Adam Macklin (22), Munster's John Ryan (23) and Stephen Archer (24), Leinster's Jamie Hagan (24), and Leinster Academy's hopefuls Martin Moore (21) and Tadhg Furlong (19).

Whether all or any make the required progress to pour more options into the international squad remains to be seen.

What is certain is that they will learn all they will need from coming into contact with Ulster's John Afoa, Munster's BJ Botha and Leinster's Mike Ross at live scrum sessions at their respective clubs.

On Saturday, there were 18 scrums. Ireland could only hold onto three of their six. England controlled 11 of 12. Those statistics only tell half the story.

The Irish were heaved into retreat. They eventually conceded a penalty try and another from replacement scrum-half Ben Youngs that owed everything to the disintegration of the scrum.

The implosion of this one area of the game had a powerful, undeniable knock-on effect on all the other aspects of play in unkind conditions.

Ultimately, Wales had enough in their arsenal to repel what was France's best performance of the Six Nations in what was a bruising encounter in the Millennium Stadium.

Warren Gatland's stock as a world-class coach has rightly rocketed through the roof since he moved into his current role at Wales.

He is a stone-cold certainty for the 2013 British & Irish Lions.

Ireland slid to third in the table behind Wales and England. This is simply not good enough. There are only so many hard-luck stories that can be digested.



Explosive

"This team is a lot better than two wins and a draw. If you are going to say it, you have to show it. We didn't show it," said captain Rory Best.

They didn't because they couldn't. Court was turned in like a swinging saloon door and driven backwards by Alex Corbisiero, not exactly renowned as an explosive scrummager. This is what happens when you send a loose-head in to do a tight-head's job.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney has suffered the loss of his forwards coach Gert Smal with an eye problem for an indefinite period from which the South African may or may not return.

Interim forwards guru Anthony Foley is, at present, a temporary solution that could become a permanent problem if Smal does not restart his role.

Former Ireland number eight Foley is also in the running to become the next Munster head coach.

This would take him out of the equation for Ireland's three Test matches in New Zealand in June.

This is all happening at the end of Ireland's worst Six Nations since the demise of Eddie O'Sullivan in 2008.

Can Kidney rescue Ireland? Can he last the distance of his contract to the end of next season?

These are questions that could be answered in New Zealand.

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