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Kidney Explains Team Changes

Kidney Explains Team Changes

Ireland coach Declan Kidney admitted that it was not easy leaving players out for Saturday’s GUINNESS Series 2008 clash with New Zealand, but that he feels the selected side has the ‘skill sets’ to give Ireland the best chance of beating the All Blacks.

Declan Kidney has made six changes to the Ireland team for this weekend’s second match of the GUINNESS Series 2008, when the All Blacks visit Croke Park for the first time.

Two of the switches are in the backs, with Girvan Dempsey and Tomas O’Leary preferred to Keith Earls and Eoin Reddan at full-back and scrum half respectively.

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Jerry Flannery and Tony Buckley make way for Rory Best and John Hayes in the front row.

Meanwhile, Alan Quinlan and David Wallace, both try-scoring replacements against Canada, have taken back row spots away from Stephen Ferris and Shane Jennings.

Earls did little wrong when he made his debut against Canada last Saturday, scoring an early try and looking assured in the number 15 jersey.

But Kidney, although acknowledging the efforts of the players last weekend, felt that changes were necessary.

“There were several changes which weren’t easy, because all the boys had done very well last week,” he said.

“One of the goals that we set out to achieve early on was to develop a panel. By doing that, what it allows you to do is to draw on different skill sets going into games.

“And I believe that we’ve selected a team with the skill set to give us the best chance going forward on Saturday, and in the back-line that’s part of that.

“Everybody has a good skill set and it’s just a case of picking the guys with the best fit for the weekend and I believe that’s what we’ve done.

“Girvan’s been playing very well, so has Geordan (Murphy) and so has Keith and Rob (Kearney) is good at full-back and that’s what we want.

“It’s just in Girvan’s particular skill set, we just think that that’s a good one for Saturday. Experience is part of that as well.”

The reintroductions of Quinlan and Wallace, who have played 74 Tests between them, certainly boosts Ireland’s experience levels in the back row.

The two Heineken Cup winners will be out to protect Irish ball and cause havoc for the Kiwis at the breakdown and in the loose.

Incredibly, this weekend’s game will mark the first Test that Quinlan and Wallace have started together since Ireland’s Six Nations win over France at Lansdowne Road in February 2001 (Quinlan was number 6 and Wallace number 8).

Explaining the decision to recall the pair, Kidney said: “I think they have a wealth of experience at international level as well as provincial level. So that’s what we’re hoping they’ll bring into it.

“They’ve been involved in matches against New Zealand before. The more often you play these guys, the more you learn from it and sometimes you learn things you don’t want to know.

“Hopefully that can stand you in good stead later on. That experience, going along with Jamie (Heaslip) who is gathering experience very quickly in his own career, will stand us in good stead on Saturday.”

It is a well known fact that Ireland have never beaten New Zealand at Test match level – the closest call being the 10-10 draw at Lansdowne Road in January 1973.

So what approach has Kidney taken to this match and how does he rate the tourists?

“We’ve concentrated more on the Australian game (from earlier this month) because that’s closer to the personnel they look like they’re going to play on Saturday, and obviously the Tri Nations games too.

“They are the Tiger Woods of world rugby, everybody’s judges themselves off them. They are an extremely good side.

“In fairness to the whole set-up, there were a number of players who left their shores and they didn’t panic – they brought in a lot of new guys.

In theory, they put their so-called first 15 out against Australia. But look at what the other lads did last Saturday (against Scotland) and look at the size of the panel and the options that that’s gives them.

“Whichever 22 they’re going to roll up with on Saturday, they just have huge experience under their belts.”

He added: “They set out, early doors, that they wanted a Grand Slam-type tour. They started it extremely well against Scotland, and the spirit in the squad is bound to be massive given that so many fellas would have played games.

“I was looking at the results over the last number of years and we’ve played them six times but five of those have been in June, when they’ve been coming off Super 14 competition. So facing them in November is probably the toughest time to play them.”