Ward backs O'Shea for Ireland

Date published: February 26 2013

Former Lions fly-half Tony Ward has backed Conor O'Shea to become Ireland head coach should Declan Kidney not receive a new deal.

Former Lions fly-half Tony Ward has backed Conor O'Shea to become Ireland coach should Declan Kidney not be offered a contract extension.

The Quins boss is one of the leading names in line as a possible replacement for Kidney, with Mike Ruddock his closest rival with the bookies.

Pressure seems to be mounting on the Ireland head coach following the back-to-back defeats to England and Scotland. Since the Grand Slam triumph of his first year at the helm, it has been a difficult tenure that has seen the Irish win only half of their eighteen matches in the tournament.

“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.”

O'Shea was a guest on RTE for the recent game and showed sympathy for what Kidney was going through, sighting injuries and the suspension of Cian Healy as being a factor in their loss. It was a defeat that has been difficult for Irish fans to take due to the statistics.

“As a coach, I know what Declan is going through and can put context into it. The team in Scotland was missing a number of players and at full strength we would have won the game. As it was, we gave a sucker an even chance having had them on toast.

“Declan is the most decorated coach we have ever had in Ireland and you need to sit down with the players before making any decision,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ward added his views on the loss on Sunday.

“The defeat on Sunday almost defied rugby,” said Ward. “We were so dominant. I was disappointed with the leadership because Heaslip opted not to give Jackson an early kick at goal to settle his nerves but went for a line-out that did not work and then, from a more difficult angle and with Scotland a prop light, he opted for the posts.

“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.”