19 May, 11:13
There are six uncapped players in the Ireland squad for the summer tour to North America that was named this morning. An Emerging Ireland squad has also been selected for the Tblisi Cup in Georgia.
Asked it this was a difficult team to select, Kidney was typically concise - 'Yes'. When pressed he said it had cost him 'another few hairs, another few sleepless hours'. The areas of difficulty were 'All round, really. There are a lot of very talented players left out. The onus when you have a group of talented players is to mix and match to make the best team. You know, you can have very good players but they don't always make the best team. Sometimes it's who not to pick is the problem. But the reaction of the players left out has been as good as you would hope it to be'.
Kidney explained the decision to select Aidan McCullen ahead of a possibly fit Eric Miller as being down to McCullen 'having played five or six games and played well in all of them' whereas Miller had played 'one and a half, he got a knock on his neck early in the Edinburgh match and we weren't sure of his fitness. Going into Europe you don't want to have too much uncertainty in the lead-up'.
Kidney is certainly expecting a tough encounter, 'In the physical stakes, we're expecting a bit of a bruiser. Benetton generally win at least one, if not two, of their home matches and they're a lot more settled a side than we are. When you play the first game in a competition there's always a level of uncertainty, it's a level playing field with everything to play for. Nobody likes losing at home. There's going to be a very high level of skill in it - when you look at a player like Troncon, he's a world-class player.
Leinster captain Reggie Corrigan made the point that the Celtic League standard has improved, particularly with the improvement in the Welsh sides, making the transition to European Cup not as pronounced as previously, 'but it is still a step up'.
Corrigan also highlighted the conditions as a factor,
'The weather forecast is saying 19 or 20 degrees. I'm sure they'll try to up the pace of the game a bit and see if our fitness levels are up to it'. As a guard against complacency, Corrigan recalled the last time he played a Heineken match in Europe. 'It was against Milan, and we were leading into the sixth minute of injury time when they scored a try in the corner from nowhere to win by a point'. I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing that Reggie is the only survivor from that particular trip.
Asked what was the problem in the recent defeat against The Ospreys, Kidney ventured, perhaps with a bit of the Munster in him, that 'maybe it was a bit of cuteness. We certainly had the possession to win it but played too much in our own half. To borrow a golfing analogy, sometimes it's the right thing to try to shoot par rather than always go for the birdies'.
Regarding new signing David Holwell, Kidney expressed satisfaction with how he is settling in. He pointed out his high tackle count, especially for a small guy, and that it's going to take a little time to adjust from Super 12 style rugby to a European game 'where the ball is contested more at the breakdown'.
Treviso are leading their league at present and along with the aforementioned Troncon, they also include the Dallan brothers, Denis and Manuel, as well as the impressive Italian internationals, flanker Sergio Parisse and hooker Fabio Ongaro in their lineup. They have never qualified from a European Cup pool, but their record of 10 wins from 30 games played indicates that they can win in the competition. Included in those wins is a double over Harlequins in 1999, a win over Wasps in 2001/02 and last season they beat a decent Bourgoin side.
Before evolving into Tiger Woods of 2000, a bit of mid-career Nick Faldo wouldn't go amiss at this point.