DECLAN KIDNEY HAS admitted there is invariably an extra edge when it comes to Ireland-England games.
Speaking after naming the Irish Wolfhounds team yesterday, Kidney said the fixture is “always a bit spicy,” and noted how “over the last few years, we’re about two wins each”.
He continued: “Every player will tell you they’re just looking for opportunities to showcase themselves.
“Andrew [Trimble] didn’t get much pitch time in November and he’s been playing well with Ulster, so it’s another opportunity for him.
“The wing positions have become highly competitive, with Luke [Fitzgerald] returning too, and we have the help of having a few experienced campaigners in a difficult match.”
Kidney believes Friday’s game will be a stern test for his side, given the strength of the English team they are set to face, explaining how, along with the other Irish coaches, he “wanted to see the strength we had”.
On his captain for the day, James Coughlan, he added:
“[The captaincy] means a lot to him. He has the experience of captaining sides. It’s important to have someone like that.
“You don’t want to be lumbering too many of them with jobs they’re not used to doing. We had two or three other candidates that had been standing up.
“It fits easily on James’ shoulders and it has done since junior level.”
In addition, some commentators expressed surprise at the omission of Leinster’s Ian Madigan from the starting lineup, but Kidney insisted he wasn’t being made to suffer as a result of his versatility.
“He was a replacement in the last game and he’s a replacement here. But it can be easier to start games. He started a few recently.
“He did come off the bench last week and had a good effect off the bench. You want to give him practice doing that. It’s a different mindset for matches.
“With a little bit of experience, you can have an even bigger impact on games when you come in. It’s a 23-man game and if you can’t have an impact on the game, you don’t deserve to come on.”
Kidney also said that choosing between Michael Bent and Declan Fitzpatrick was another issue.
“Michael hasn’t been fit a lot of the time so it’s important to get him back to match fitness.
“Declan is working his way back into match fitness, so we have to balance that out. The other 14 guys are depending on that position as well.
“I wouldn’t be in a rush to get Michael off, but it’s important to get Declan a bit of time too, just to build up his game time.”
Meanwhile, in relation to one of the squad’s more notable absentees, Stephen Ferris, Kidney added that the forward has an “outside chance of making the last two [Six Nations] matches, but it’s not one we’re going to rush”.