Thursday, February 4, 2010

RUGBY: Kidney gears up for Six Nations test

IRELAND coach, Declan Kidney, said having a competitive squad would be key to following on last year's success in the Six Nations Championships.

There was no talk, however, of Grand Slams, with Kidney preferring to focus only on the visit of Italy to Croke Park on Saturday and the opening game in a new campaign.

Kidney was basically saying the slate was clean again and the side had to build once more towards achieving what they did last year.

The Irish management made a few tough calls on Tuesday when announcing the team to start against Italy.

But Kidney said competitiveness in the squad would breed success.

"Having players all bidding for the same places is what you want.

"It is crucial and if you do not have it, then the team, the squad, do not grow."

He added: "Last year we tried to put ourselves in a position where there would have to be calls to be made when selecting the teams.

"You look at the players and see how they are going. You just have to be honest and make the calls on form, which players are going better.

"Some of the decisions are so marginal it is almost inexplicable, others are based around combinations and also the opposition we face."

Andrew Trimble was one of several close calls made by Kidney, but he said the Ulster winger had come through well after a difficult spell with injury.

"In Andrew's case, he had an injury situation where it was do you get it sorted, or do you play?

"Ulster, Andrew and ourselves decided the right option was not to take him on the summer tour to North America.

"He got what he needed done, had a big pre-season and when he started playing in September he showed great form. He has continued to do that on a consistent basis.

"Andrew was probably unlucky in November not to get a game, but Shane (Horgan) deserved his outing on that occasion.

"This time around he (Horgan) loses out and Andrew gets his chance."

Last year, Ulster skipper and hooker, Rory Best played a big part in the Grand Slam and he also captained the Ireland side which toured North America.

But he has not played since following a neck injury which required surgery. Remarkably, Best has returned to playing earlier than expected and with him fit and ready to go, Kidney had no problem naming him on the bench.

"It is a credit to Rory. It was a major injury, but the way he has got himself back and fit again. Indeed I think he is probably fitter than he has been for some time.

"I think the importance of the club system to us as well was reflected in that he was able to play for Banbridge just two weeks ago and then get an outing against Saxons last Sunday.

"The fact that he has presented himself as being fit and ready to go is a credit to himself as much as anyone else.

"He was a senior player for us last year and we are going to need all that experience coming into the game."

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