Grand Slam glory now a distant memory as coach falls foul of stats

Yesterday’s statement by the IRFU thanked Declan Kidney’s “unquestionable commitment, passion, professionalism and success he has delivered to Irish Rugby to date”.

Grand Slam glory now  a  distant memory  as coach  falls foul of stats

That wording might seem odd, perhaps, given Kidney took charge of 53 test matches for Ireland, winning 27 — a 51% win rate.

But as the coals of the 2013 Six Nations are raked over it’s probably worth having a wander back through the record books to recall just how successful Kidney had been in his coaching career up until relatively recently.

After coaching Ireland to an U19 World Championship title in France in 1998, the former Irish Schools’ coach went to his native Munster, leading them to Heineken Cup finals in 2000 and 2002 only to lose to Northampton and Leicester respectively. Kidney left provincial rugby in 2002 to become Ireland assistant coach to Eddie O’Sullivan. After two years in the role he decided to move back to club rugby, agreeing to become head coach of the Newport Gwent Dragons but, just three weeks later, Kidney instead joined Leinster for family reasons.

His time at Leinster was not long spent, staying less than a year with the province. Kidney’s Leinster reached the Heineken Cup quarter-final before he announced a return to Munster.

Kidney’s return to his native province was an immediate triumph, beating Biarritz to win the 2006 Heineken Cup in Munster’s third final in less than a decade. 2008 brought a second Heineken Cup win, when they defeated Toulouse.

After Ireland’s disastrous 2007 World Cup and a poor 2008 Six Nations campaign, Declan Kidney was the man called upon to replace Eddie O’Sullivan at the national helm.

Kidney’s first match came against Canada at Thomond Park on November 8th, 2008. A 55-0 romp with Ronan O’Gara kicking six from six on the day, it was a gentle introduction to the test arena in a familiar setting.

The following spring brought the achievement that Kidney should be forever both praised and remembered for: an Irish Six Nations Grand Slam. If that was the high point for Irish professional rugby, it was certainly the pinnacle for Kidney’s Ireland.

A famous win against Australia in the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand was followed by a muted quarter-final exit to Wales, Kidney having controversially chosen the veteran Ronan O’Gara to start the match ahead of his pre-tournament starter Jonathan Sexton.

Since then things went downhill with Ireland winning just four of 15 matches (27%) since the 2011 World Cup.

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