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'O'Shea is right choice for Ireland'
ESPN Staff
February 26, 2013
Ireland coach Declan Kidney talks to the media, Ireland press conference, Fitzpatrick Hotel, Dalkey, Ireland, March 10, 2010
Declan Kidney's position is in the spotlight © PA Photos
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Former British & Irish Lions fly-half Tony Ward has tipped Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea to take over from Declan Kidney as Irish boss.

Kidney's position is becoming increasingly under-pressure after their 12-8 loss to Scotland at the weekend. Ireland dominated much of the game, both in territory and possession, but they failed to take advantage of their try-scoring opportunities. Kidney's contract runs out after the current Six Nations and various bookmakers believe that his days with Ireland are numbered.

His tenure with Ireland started on a victorious note when they scooped the 2009 Grand Slam, but they crashed out of the 2011 World Cup at the quarter-final stages and suffered a hammering at the hands of the All Blacks in June.

If Kidney leaves Ireland after the Six Nations then O'Shea seems to be the early favourite to take over from him. Leinster's Joe Schmidt and Ireland Under-20 boss Mike Ruddock are also in the mix, but for former Ireland fly-half Ward, O'Shea is the right man.

"I think it is the beginning of the end for Declan," Ward told the Guardian. "I do not say that lightly because I have the highest regard for him: in an era when most coaches get up your nose with their superiority complexes, he is a shining example of integrity, honesty, humility and complete lack of ego.

"I just think that four years is the shelf life for an international coach. Declan has got a few things wrong this Six Nations, such as taking the captaincy off Brian O'Driscoll and picking Paddy Jackson at outside-half in Scotland, even if the decisions were made for the right reasons. I do not see the RFU sacking him after the Six Nations, nor should they, but I think he will decide to step down.

"Conor would be my choice to take Ireland forward. He has the track record, he trusts the people around him and he is Irish at a time when all our provinces are coached by New Zealanders. Schmidt and Ruddock are men of substances and strong candidates, while there will always be a place in the game for Declan."

But while Kidney appears to be getting much of the flak for Ireland's loss to Scotland, fullback Rob Kearney insists that the team should be getting the blame and not the coaching staff.

"On a day like that when we had so much possession and created so much, the blame has to be on the players," Kearney 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. It was very disappointing as we should have won and as a team we have to take responsibility for that."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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