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The 'smashing' verdict of ex-Ireland boss Kidney on Andy Farrell

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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Former Ireland boss Declan Kidney believes that the upcoming tour to New Zealand 14 months before the start of the 2023 World Cup is the perfect trip for Andy Farrell and his squad of newly-crowned Triple Crown winners. Ireland finished off their Guinness Six Nations championship with a convincing win over Scotland last Saturday in Dublin and the coach who took them on their last three-Test series to the home of the All Blacks reckons the July tour is ideal preparation ahead of France 2023. 

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Kidney was at the helm in 2012 when he took Ireland south for the series that was played out in Auckland, Christchurch and Hamilton. The Irish ultimately suffered a 3-0 Test series defeat, losing the final game by a record 0-60 score. However, they had come within a late Dan Carter drop goal of getting their first-ever win over the All Blacks the previous weekend.  

Ireland have not been back in New Zealand in the ten years since then due to the curious international Test rugby tour schedule, but they have beaten the All Blacks in three of their last five meetings, a sequence that began with the 2016 win in Chicago and ended with last November’s Autumn Nations Series victory in Dublin.  

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With Ireland having since gone on to finish second to France in the recent Six Nations following wins over Wales, Italy, England and the Scots, they will now be hugely optimistic about the Test series which opens in 15 weeks’ time in Auckland on July 9.   

“I’m delighted for them,” said Kidney to RugbyPass when asked if he still followed the fortunes of the national team he coached from 2008 to 2013, famously winning the 2009 Grand Slam in Cardiff. “Winning breeds winning and I think Andy is doing a smashing job. 

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“He has the squad in a good place and now they will have a tough tour. I’m glad to see us going to New Zealand before the World Cup rather than after. That will be a good learning experience there as well too. All the coaches are doing a smashing job there. It will test out the whole squad and the whole squad will have to stand up.

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“If they can get midweek matches and travel with a bigger group that will stand them in good stead for the World Cup. New Zealand is a great place to tour. You are there to the middle of winter from our summer. You are going to go into a real rugby environment and it is a fantastic preparation 14 months out from a World Cup.”

Kidney would have twice coached against Farrell at Test level as the current Ireland boss was the England defence coach under Stuart Lancaster for the 2012 and 2013 Anglo-Irish fixtures in the Six Nations. “I have only met him once or twice just to stake hands with him but looking from afar, they are doing a smashing job. The players are enjoying themselves. Long may that continue.”

It was last December when current London Irish boss Kidney was linked with heading back to Munster after it was confirmed that head coach Johann van Graan is leaving at the end of this season to join Bath. Kidney guided the Irish province to European glory in 2006 and 2008 before taking in the Ireland job, but he has now dismissed his reported potential return as media speculation. “I’d imagine so, yeah,” he said vaguely. 

What he was more open about was the prospect of London Irish hosting a 17,000 capacity crowd this Saturday in the Gallagher Premiership for the first time at their new home in Brentford. The Exiles are riding high in the table in sixth place and they are looking to enhance their playoff prospects with a win over Northampton.

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“I’d like to think some of the people are coming on the basis of what we have done to date and others people are coming for the tradition of the occasion [the club’s annual St Patrick’s party fixture]. We will do our best to play the best game we can. It is something the supporters buy into as well. We know we are far from perfect and we know we make errors – but we make errors because we are trying things.”

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