“Ultimately, we just felt it was best to go with the team the way it was because they had done well last weekend.” Ireland coach Declan Kidney explains why he has kept faith with the 15 players that started against France and named an unchanged side to face Italy this coming Sunday.
With Rob Kearney, Paddy Wallace and Jerry Flannery shaking off injuries, Ireland will field an unchanged team when they take on Italy at Stadio Flaminio on Sunday.
Explaining the decision, Ireland coach Declan Kidney said: “It (the selection meeting) was actually quite lengthy, really.
“We’re in the midst of a tournament and we wanted to see how everyone was motoring.
“We took a good, long look at the France video. We looked at the quality of the replacements and we talked long and hard over whether we would alternate things – so we put a good bit of thought into it.
“That wasn’t so much a negative reflection on how the lads played but just the fact that we have a stated objective of trying to build a squad.
“On the balance of everything, we felt it was best to go with the team the way it was.
“But, ultimately, we just felt it was best to go with the team the way it was because they had done well last weekend.”
He added: “There were a number of areas that we looked at – lads who came on and did well, lads that have been going well in training and Keith Earls came back into the equation too – so we took longer than you might have imagined after last Saturday.
“But that’s what we hope to do all the time. Win, lose or draw, we’ll look at selection properly.”
Kidney is in the enviable position of knowing that in the majority of positions, he has ready-made replacements waiting in the wings to step up.
With the likes of Malcolm O’Kelly, Peter Stringer and Geordan Murphy on the bench, Ireland have stacks of experience and quality to call on and newcomer Tom Court is also pressing to making his Test debut against Italy.
“Undoubtedly, it’s a fact that competition tends to get the best out of people. It spurs everyone on, especially when you have guys with such a positive attitude.
“These lads know that they can’t afford to switch off because if they do, some guy will be ready to move.”
Kidney also revealed that noticeable improvements have been made at training and that following consultation with the players, the sessions have been shortened and sharpened in their effectiveness.
“From the previous day to yesterday, we reduced the error count in training by over 70% just by acknowledging we had made mistakes in the first place.
“It’s a case of trying to give guys opportunities and that’s why the ‘A’ game on Friday night is important as well.
“We had a number of younger guys in with us again this week and they didn’t look out of place.
“Things have changed, we’re trying to refine things all the time. We look back at some of the things we did seven or eight years ago – things like Jaffa cakes in the dressing room and Mars bars for energy.
“I used to love it! But all that has changed now. You keep looking at all the best practice around the world.
“Rugby is a different type of game, it’s multi-functional, you have to have different aspects, so you’re looking for concise training sessions because the most important thing is to have the players in the best possible shape for the weekend,” he added.