Declan Kidney will not be rushed into parachuting Ireland’s exciting next generation of players into the Test side this weekend.
Kidney saw an inexperienced Ireland XV end a run of six defeats in a row, five of them Tests, with an eight-try, 53-0 demolition of the outgunned and woefully under-resourced Pacific islanders at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Uncapped Ulster wing Craig Gilroy, 21, was the star of the show with a hat-trick of tries, while his fellow northern lights Paddy Jackson, 20, and Luke Marshall, 21, were also prominent, with Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne, 23, and Ulster flanker Iain Henderson, 20, also impressive.
Their performances led to an instant clamour for their inclusion in next Saturday’s crucial Test against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium, which Kidney has labelled a “must-win” game to ensure Ireland’s position in the top eight of the IRB world rankings before the Rugby World Cup 2015 pool in London on December 3.
Already without six frontline players through injury, and with a question mark hovering over fly-half Jonny Sexton after he suffered tightness in his groin in the warm-up against Fiji, the Irish head coach will turn to his remaining tried and tested players for a match hebelieves will shape the destiny of the national team over the next three years.
“Let the bars have a good night, the more they’re discussing it, the more pints they’re buying,” Kidney said in response to theanticipated pub talk surrounding his exciting young players.
“That’s the whole craic of the thing. We can’t stymie people’s opinions. Being the one entrusted with picking the right ones, there is a responsibility in that. I will sit down and take a look at it.
“There’ll be a few disappointed faces next week but at least now we’re starting to build another squad. Between retirements and injuries and everything else, we’ve a completely different squad now. And for fellas to put their hands up and emphasise that there is a new squad coming through is all the better. It’s been a good fixture list for us.
“The more often we get them like that, the better. This was a chance to freshen up things. It would have been easy to stay with the same XV [which lost the previous week’s Test to South Africa] and give them a run again. But overall we’ll have benefited from this run.”
Whether that benefit will accrue this weekend is doubtful and in discussing the battle for the wing berths between Gilroy, Simon Zebo and Fergus McFadden, who scored two tries against Fiji, Kidney also reminded supporters that a certain Tommy Bowe remains the present.
While hailing Gilroy’s performance, Kidney also said both he and inside centre Luke Marshall, another try scorer against Fiji, were still not yet regulars in the Ulster side. And when speaking of Henderson, an U20 World Championship player just this summer, Kidney’s words could well be applied to the whole of this new crop of Test stars in waiting.
“The thing now is to give him the experience but not to make so much demands on him that he gets a knock, picks up silly, chronic injuries that are going to restrict the rest of his career. So you want to give him the experience but not overplay him.”
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