Kidney: We're knocking at the door
Kidney: We're knocking at the doorSHARE
Ireland would be contending for the Six Nations title if they had taken their chances during the tournament, claimed coach Declan Kidney after the 13-all draw with France on Saturday.
The 53-year-old, who was named world coach of the year in 2009 after guiding Ireland to a rare Grand Slam, may have taken solace from a gutsy performance by the team but it is unlikely to end the speculation surrounding his own future.
Kidney, whose contract is up at the end of the campaign, has had to cope with a whole raft of injuries to key players prior to and during the tournament which saw them open with a win over last year's Grand Slam winners Wales followed by two narrow defeats to unbeaten England and then Scotland.
However, he refused to use the injuries as an excuse for their failure to once again finish off an opponent, rather their lack of clinical instinct.
The Irish had dominated the first-half of a bruising encounter between two sides lacking in confidence – France having lost their opening three matches – and in appalling weather of driving rain but had allowed a 13-3 lead slip to end up drawing 13-13.
"Frustration is the word," said Kidney.
"We had a lot of new guys coming into the team. However, if we had one or two things go our way we would have won.
"We are knocking on the door at being contenders but it is just about taking your chances which makes the difference at this level.
"We had a penalty count which was against us which isn't good enough. We were also inside their 22 three times and gave away two free-kicks and a penalty.
"In the second-half we were camped on their line once and they on ours once but we came away with nothing and with their opportunity they scored a try."
Kidney, who prior to the Ireland job took Irish province Munster to four European Cup finals in his two spells with them winning two of them, said he and captain Jamie Heaslip had agreed from the outset of a policy of not using the long injury list as an excuse.
"I have never known such a series of injuries," he said.
"However we said we wouldn't complain and the young lads who have come in have done very well. You have to work your way through it and not fall back on it as an excuse."
Heaslip, who scored Ireland's only try, said a draw was an odd result to have to deal with but there was much to be encouraged by.
"I think there were a lot of positives and a couple of negatives to take out of the match," he said.
"It's a bit of a hard one to take at the moment but I thought overall we were more clinical in this match. However, like our losses to England and Scotland there is a feeling of what might have been."
Kidney must now prepare his side for what is sure to be an equally physical encounter with Italy in Rome next Saturday and once again he may lose several players, with replacement scrum-half Eoin Reddan definitely out after breaking a leg in the final minute of what was his 50th appearance for his country.
"Brian O'Driscoll has a dead leg and a couple of stitches to his ear, Luke Marshall took a knock to the head, Conor Murray tweaked his knee when he replaced O'Driscoll, Peter O'Mahony also has a dead leg and apart from those everyone else is fine," said the 53-year-old with a wry grin.