Declan Kidney has his sights firmly set on November: “I think November is probably more important than it ever has been this year, in that there’s IRB world ranking points – wherever we stand on December 1 is going to have an effect on the draw for the next World Cup”
Despite a gutsy summer tour display, Ireland end last season in eighth place in the IRB world rankings.
That leaves Declan Kidney’s men needing a productive November series against Canada, New Zealand and Argentina, as the IRB are using the world rankings to seed teams for the 2011 Rugby World Cup draw and December 1 is the cut-off point.
So all the early focus of Kidney’s reign is on those November matches and securing much-needed wins at Thomond Park and Croke Park.
“The aims for the season? Rather than giving you the outlandish ones of trying to enjoy myself and hoping that we do as well as we possibly can,” joked Kidney at Thursday’s press conference in Cork.
“In the short term, results wise and I think there’s two sides – there’s the results and the performance ones as well too.
“I think November is probably more important than it ever has been this year, in that there’s IRB world ranking points – wherever we stand on December 1 is going to have an effect on the draw for the next World Cup.
“So it has a three-year effect how we go in the next three matches, and that will focus a lot of the mind.
“The IRB system of ranking is quite difficult, it’s not totally inside our control. For instance, we could win all three matches in November and still drop a ranking place, I think, on current standings.
“But until the end of the Tri Nations, we get to November, and even from week to week that will vary in how the points system works.
“There’s even an ironic thing in that losing to Canada can have a greater effect on your ranking than beating New Zealand. So all three matches are of equal importance in November.”
Fast-forwarding to his first Six Nations championship at the helm and you cannot get a much tougher start than facing France, albeit at home.
Kidney added: “I suppose the last time Ireland played France at home, it was just a hop of the ball between having a disappointing day and a great win that could have led to all sorts of things. It would be nice to turn that one around.
“There’s Italy and England at home as well. You want to go as well as you can, you look at where you’re starting and see can you finish higher than you did last year which would be maybe three or four wins.”
The appointments of Paul McNaughton as team manager and Alan Gaffney as a dedicated backs coach have ticked off two of the recommendations from the Genesis Report, which reviewed Ireland’s performance at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
However, the possibility of a psychologist being appointed to the squad, the third posting recommended by the Genesis consultancy group, seems unlikely.
“A psychologist? My experience of that is that that work is only good for guys if they want it,” Kidney insisted.
“If you invoke it on somebody, then it’s just a negative. Guys switch off from it very much, so it’s really just an individual thing.
“I think in all sporting codes, you see some guys go for it and then sometimes it’s just even on an aspect of play. I suppose, using the golfers, some of them might go to a sports psychologist but it might only be for putting.
“It’s really a personal choice and if I feel there’s a demand for it from the players, then we’ll look for one.”