Declan Kidney will announce his team tomorrow to play Australia on Saturday and I suspect it will see him showing faith in Keith Earls, Gordon D’Arcy and Jonny Sexton, all of whom were under pressure after the win over USA.
It was hard to understand why Andrew Trimble didn’t start that game, and he will have every reason to question why he is about to be left out again. So too Fergus McFadden.
Meantime Ronan O’Gara will be waiting outside the coach’s door to find out why he isn’t in the starting line up. O’Gara is as hungry for caps now as he was when he first got the gig in 2000. In fact moreso. As players get closer to the exit they often become more bolshy about staying on the premises. O’Gara is firmly in that category.
The relationship between Kidney and himself is nothing like as healthy as it was when Munster were making their way in the world, and every time Sexton gets the nod the distance between Kidney and his former pupil grows wider.
Does that matter? It does in so far as O’Gara is an immensely important part of the group and the coach needs to keep him positive, for he will have a role to play in this drama before the credits roll. I’d guess that Kidney, who is battling to keep the whole thing together, is tired trying to keep him sweet; and that O’Gara is tired of listening for he reckons his form is better than Sexton’s, in which case he should be picked.
And, as it happens, this is a drama. We have a group who are fighting to disprove all the evidence set against them: the wrong age profile; the wrong injury profile, in so far as too many players are off the pace still because of injury; and the only consistency in form is that it is so poor.
At the press conference earlier today Jamie Heaslip was asked about that recurring bad form and his response was: ‘Oh I can see where this is going!”
For the next few minutes he tried to make the point that not only was the past another country, but it was on another planet that was at the far end of the galaxy as far as Saturday was concerned.
Heaslip is always quick to point out that he doesn’t think too deeply about anything regarding rugby – it’s just a game that he loves playing, so go out and play it. All that matters, he told us, was Saturday. The rest is irrelevant.
In the real world of course it is absolutely relevant. If you accept that confidence is key to performing, and that you get confidence for your next performance from your recent past, then positive form is high grade fuel. You reckon for example that the Wallabies might have gained something by beating the ABs last month to win the Tri Nations?
Heaslip discounts all of that in favour of knowing that the group he is involved with have a record of achievement, and that’s enough for him. I was tempted to point out that those achievements were on Planet Past – where Jamie doesn’t want to travel – but life is too short for the direction that would have taken us.
As for Saturday, the 15 who Declan Kidney looks like putting in business class are:
Kearney; Bowe, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Earls; Sexton, Reddan; Healy, Best, Ross, O’Callaghan, O’Connell, Ferris, Heaslip, O’Brien.