Ireland’s Kidney is on familiar ground against Canada

A somewhat disjointed Canada team should prove ideal opposition on Saturday for Ireland’s new head coach Declan Kidney.


And the two-time European Cup winning coach will have the added benefit of fielding an Ireland side at Munster’s Thomond Park home in Limerick -the scene of so many of his triumphs.


Injury has robbed him of some likely starters for the bigger tests to come this month against New Zealand and Argentina.


But the nucleus of the pack that has served him so well over the years are available, and the series also allows him to field the pick of Ireland’s crop of exiting young players.


Canada are likely to bring their usual muscularity to their forward play but Kidney will have an experienced all-Munster front five that should be more than capable of neutralising the threat.


The backrow of Stephen Ferris, Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip a No 8 have never played as a trio before and only Heaslip could have legitimate grounds for disappointment if left out of the starting XV against the All Blacks and the Pumas.


“Sometimes building a panel means you don’t always get to play guys in their favoured position or even their best positions. It’s just a case of getting guys out on the pitch,” Kidney said.


“It’s all about getting opportunities and seizing them,” Kidney, appointed after long-serving coach Eddie O’Sullivan coach ultimately paid the price for Ireland’s failure to go beyond the pool phase of last year’s World Cup, added.


Canada’s recently appointed head coach Kieran Crowley, the former All Blacks full-back, is trying to develop a more expansive game but Ireland’s young guns are expected to ruthlessly punish any mistakes in possession by his backs.


New Ireland cap Keith Earls, selected at full-back, has been Munster’s best back this season, outshining even Kiwi star Doug Howlett.


And Luke Fitzgerald – making his second Test start – is already being compared to Brian O’Driscoll, who retains the captaincy under Kidney.


On the right of a backline that also features the experienced Tommy Bowe will be Rob Kearney, whose powerful and imaginative counter-attacking was one of the few beacons during O’Sullivan’s last dark days in charge of Ireland.


After a disappointing World Cup, Crowley is not expecting too much more than honest effort from his greatly altered team.


“What I find with Canadians is that they will do anything. You ask them to run through a brick wall and they will do it. As long as we can go out there and put a performance and be able to review the game and say yeah, we did this well, then that is what I am expecting,” he told the Irish Times.


This will be Ireland’s first game under the Experimental Law Variations whereas while Canada had the advantage of playing under the new rules against Portugal in a 21-13 win in Lisbon last week. The Canucks are likely to need any advantage going.


Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com

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