DECLAND KIDNEY SAID his Ireland team would not ‘bitch and moan’ about their floor-touching scroll of injuries but this week, with the team staring down the handle of a wooden spoon, the dam has burst.
Today’s final Carton House briefing of the current campaign was filled with wistful comments and bitter reflections on a year of injury woes that have placed Ireland as Six Nations also-rans.
Kidney, after the draw with France, mentioned injuries while saying he did not want to mention injuries. It was hard to blame the man, especially when he bemoaned the loss of experienced stars, and Lions, Stephen Ferris, Paul O’Connell, Gordon D’Arcy and Tommy Bowe.
The latest disaster to befall the team came at 2:20 today, less than two hours after the team was named, as Jonathan Sexton had to withdraw with an ankle injury.
The injury thread has been pulled so much in the past five days that the green blazer is down to a collar and a crest. Team manager Mick Kearney called the loss of so many senior players ‘grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented’ on Monday.
On Tuesday, flanker Sean O’Brien said, “We’ve had a lot of injuries to big players, physical players, but I wouldn’t be excusing that as an excuse for us in this campaign.”
Kidney, with goading from some sections of the media corp, took up the running this afternoon.
The coach said, “Guys will always have bangs and knocks. It’s a physical contact game, no different to American Football. If you wait to be perfect, you’ll never have a team but no player will never go out on the field unless he is ready to go.” Kidney added:
We’ve lost two matches by a combined total of 10 points. A couple of small things and you could be in the winner’s enclosure very quickly.”
Heaslip lamented the lack of a ruthless, cutting edge in the team but refused to blame Ireland’s woes on the lack of established names.
He said, “We’re just focused on the game, our job and the detail. If we take care of that and hopefully we’ll get the outcome.”
“[Final standings talk] is of others. The players, what we can have an effect on, what we do, is play by play and different opportunities that come your way in the game. We can’t afford ourselves to think about that.”
Asked if he was not using the prospect of a wooden spoon to focus minds, Heaslip joked, “No, I broke that when my mam was trying to beat me with it when I was younger.”