Rob Kearney: Players to blame, not coach Kidney

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IRELAND full-back Rob Kearney says only the players can be held accountable for a troubled RBS Six Nations campaign that appears to be doing terminal harm to the reign of head coach Declan Kidney.

A logic-defying 12-8 defeat against Scotland meant Kidney suffered back-to-back championship setbacks for the first time and his chances of securing a contract extension beyond the summer seem bleak. Supporters angry at seeing a team that began the Six Nations so brightly in Cardiff implode amid baffling tactics, erratic on-field leadership and general ineptitude have called for Kidney’s removal. But Kearney points to Ireland’s complete dominance in virtually every department in Edinburgh – except on the scoreboard – as an explanation as why the players and not Kidney must accept responsibility

“On a day like that when we had so much possession and created so much, the blame has to be on the players,” the Leinster full-back said. “The coaches can’t make that final pass for you or make that clinical decision. The players must take responsibility and must bear the brunt. The guys were happy with the gameplan and how we were playing the game. We created opportunities

“The stats show that we played the right way. It was just one of those days when you can’t really explain things.”

While there is justification for Kearney’s defence of his coach, results alone suggest it is highly implausible that the Irish Rugby Football Union will retain Kidney. Reports of internal divisions have surfaced and the overall sense of confusion points to a new man being in charge for the summer tour to North America.

Ireland’s fortunes could deteriorate further with winless France arriving at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday week for a showdown between the tournament’s two biggest flops. The return of Jonathan Sexton is viewed as critical against France,
although the hamstring tear suffered against England a fortnight ago could keep him sidelined for longer. In his absence, 21-year-old Ulster debutant Paddy Marshall showed promise against Scotland, but crucially he missed eight points from the kicking tee.

But Kearney was encouraged by what he saw. “Genuinely I thought Paddy did really well. It’s a tough ask goalkicking in front of a full stadium at Murrayfield on your debut.”