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Kidney: Rankings Scenario Adds ‘Spice’ To Series

Kidney: Rankings Scenario Adds ‘Spice’ To Series

Canada may be ranked seven places lower than Ireland in the IRB World Rankings but Ireland coach Declan Kidney feels that Saturday week’s clash with the Canucks represents his side’s ‘most important game’ of the GUINNESS Series 2008 – in terms of ranking points and Rugby World Cup seedings.

Ireland are currently ranked eighth in the World Rankings and need to show well against Canada, New Zealand and Argentina in the coming weeks, as the IRB are using the rankings to seed teams for the 2011 Rugby World Cup draw, and December 1 is the cut-off point.

Head coach Declan Kidney has his extended squad down in Limerick this week for a training camp, putting together the final touches before he whittles the panel down to 30 and then names the matchday squad for Canada on Tuesday.

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Asked if he is conscious of the additional pressure on Ireland to maintain or better their ranking for the RWC draw, Kidney said: “There’s enough pressure. You want to win every game, any time you’re representing your country.

“The fact that there’s a knock-on consequence to the results this time (with the IRB World Rankings) just adds a little bit more spice to it.

“If we were tenth in the rankings we’d be delighted with the opportunity to climb. We’re eighth, you could get nervous but you can’t afford to let that happen.

“The peculiarities of this ranking system are that we could win all three matches and drop a place.

“All we can do is what we can do on any given day and see where we end up ranked at the end of the November series.”

This week’s camp is Kidney’s second stint with the Ireland players, following on from August’s get-together in Cork. So how is he finding going from the day-to-day dealings of a provincial coach to taking on the national job?

“There’s fantastic work going on in the provinces. The lads are being coached well, I believe, so what you’re trying to do is take from what the provinces are doing, not change it completely,” he admitted.

“The players got picked on the performances they’ve been giving with the provinces, so why try and alter that drastically?

“At the same time then, players are coming from slightly different systems of playing and you have to marry all those together and put out the best team possible because it will be the team that wins you the games rather than any individual.”

As with any professional squad, a number of players in the Ireland camp are currently nursing injuries, most notably team captain Brian O’Driscoll (knee).

O’Driscoll has returned to training after sitting out Tuesday’s run-out, as did prop John Hayes. Hooker Bernard Jackman (knee strain) and scrum half Tomas O’Leary (foot strain) are also nursing knocks.

“In rugby, guys will always have different bangs and knocks. But they’ve all been involved in training (this week), some more physically active than others,” Kidney said.

“The training camp is made up of several meetings which sometimes go on for half or the same length of time of the training sessions, so everyone’s been involved in one way or the other.

“Brian had a big involvement this morning, probably even better than we would have hoped for maybe last week. We’ll see how things are on Monday.

“You don’t put pressure on it. If it’s good on Monday, that’s the world of professionalism – if it’s right to go, it will be brilliant.

“If it’s not, thankfully now we have a squad where there’ll be other people to step in.”

Wisely, the Corkman is not looking beyond Saturday week’s encounter with Canada at Thomond Park Stadium.

“(Really) the New Zealand and Argentina games are so far down the ladder, I’m not even thinking about them.

“Whereas we’ve done some planning in the previous weeks, we’ve parked that well away.

“With the way the ranking system is with the IRB, Canada is the most important game because it has the biggest effect on our ranking.

“There’s a plus-minus – if you lose to Canada, you drop ranking points and then you’re in trouble.”