Kidney defends O’Gara

Declan Kidney today defended Ronan O’Gara’s claims Ireland are lacking pride and passion by applauding his honesty.

O’Gara issued a rallying cry for tomorrow’s crucial rankings showdown with Argentina by imploring his team-mates to start “buying into the Irish jersey a little more”.

Inspired by watching Munster’s heroic defeat by New Zealand on Tuesday night, O’Gara compared the epic display by his province’s second string to Ireland’s 22-3 capitulation to the All Blacks last weekend.

The comments have added a fresh dimension to a Test already simmering with tension as Ireland seek to guarantee their place among the second seeds for next month’s draw for the 2011 World Cup.

Kidney responded by musing on the shortcomings of the Irish psyche and revealing the team has been in the doldrums since crumbling before the All Blacks.

“I’ve known Ronan a long time and sometimes he just blurts out his honesty - it’s his own inner frustration. The lads are innately honest,” he said.

“Ireland is a brilliant place to live and slagging each other off is an innate part of it that we all enjoy, but sometimes we slag each other off too much.

“We’re actually holding ourselves back because of that. Ronan wants to play in matches whereby we produce the best of everything.

“Ronan knows how good Brian O’Driscoll is, yet he’ll slag the face off him.

“He knows how good his team-mates are and he just wants that to come out on the pitch. I interpreted what he said as self reflection.

“There’s a lot of financial uncertainty around, a bit of doom and gloom. There’s a small bit of that about the team.

“You can never do without honesty. Sometimes we pussy foot around but life is what it is.

“Sometimes you want life to be sweet and rosy. It’s great to be alive but sometimes you have to work through the difficult things.”

O’Driscoll denied Ireland lack pride but the skipper agreed an valuable lesson could be learned from Munster’s agonising 18-16 defeat.

“Ronan was venting a bit of frustration. It hasn’t really happened for us and that’s not through a lack of effort,” he said.

“Last weekend we were beaten by the better team but pride isn’t the issue.

“The Munster performance showed that if you want it enough, irrespective of skill levels or reputation, you can go after a team.

“We have to adapt a bit of that mindset and go after Argentina.

“I share a little of Ronan’s frustration but there is a fine line in getting things right in international rugby.”

Given Kidney and O’Driscoll are furiously trying to reduce the pressure ahead of a seismic encounter at Croke Park, the timing of O’Gara’s comments was unfortunate.

Once again, O’Driscoll today sought to play down the significance of a contest that will shape the nation’s destiny at the 2011 World Cup.

Defeat by the Pumas would drop Ireland to ninth in the International Rugby Board rankings, condemning them to another ‘group of death’ containing two major nations.

Argentina have the motivation of strengthening their grip on fourth place, improving their chances of being included among the top seeds.

The last three World Cups have matched the rivals in matches of huge significance and O’Driscoll noted how their destinies are often entwined.

“This fixture seems to have turned into a grudge match and every time we play them there seems to be something at stake,” he said.

“Usually these November series are ‘friendly’ games, for want of a better word, but given what’s at stake there’s going to be very little friendliness tomorrow.

“It’s been a bit tit for tat over the years - we’ve taken scalps, they’ve taken scalps.

“They’re always close, hard game and you take great satisfaction from beating teams like Argentina.

“But there will be lots of big games between now and the next World Cup.”