Declan Kidney: London Irish coach says human element of Covid-19 outweighs rugby cost

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney insists despite his side losing two fixtures in succession to Covid-19, the health of those affected trumps any rugby cost. 

Irish’s Boxing Day clash with Bath at the Rec was cancelled, resulting in the awarding of four points to Bath and two to Irish, before last week’s clash between Irish and Northampton was also cancelled, with the same awarding of points.

Were London Irish to have lost the same games in European competition, they would have been awarded zero points, and though they came away with four, not being able to play the games is a frustration.

Having watched some of his players have to deal with symptoms, however, Kidney stressed the recovery of those impacted was the most important in all this.

“Thanks for asking that, as I have seen a lot of rugby comment and if you deal with it rugby wise you can be really selfish about it, but when you see the human cost of it, you do realise that the rugby cost is that bit less,” Kidney said on Thursday.

“It has had an effect on players and people but like any ailment, people are working their way through it and we wish them a speedy recovery back to full health.

“What we’ve gone through over the last two weeks, I wouldn’t wish on any club.”

Kidney is also confident the outbreak had nothing to do with actions from members of his squad.

“Absolutely. Look, I’ve seen other clubs talking about this, and it’s not like anyone is messing around with any of this, okay?

“I couldn’t speak highly enough of the players and the way that they have conducted themselves, and it’s not only the players but also their partners, because they have had to sacrifice things too to allow the players to be in as healthy a state as they are and support them in trying to get their conditioning done in whatever facility they have, whether it’s the back garden or house or whatever they have to do.

“We would like to think with the way the virus is everybody knows that we live, train and play in the Surrey area which has a very high degree of virus floating around and it’s very contagious with this new variant.”

The boys are back at Hazelwood, as preparations continue for our trip to The Stoop on Sunday! 🙌

Can’t wait for the first run-out of 2021.#ExileNation pic.twitter.com/FY0wazsF8g

What of the Premiership’s current structure of cancelling games and the awarding of points? Might this lead to the season being skewed, or a club relegated left with complaint?

“I’ve seen some comment about it, but we all signed up to it at the start and knew what was involved,” Kidney added.

“There’s certainly a bit of, for want of a better word, luck involved. We’ve now been hit with it two weeks in a row, I could complain about the points that we’ve lost, but the main thing is that the people who have been ill, get better.

“We were ready to go last week [vs Northampton], we had a good team, but also had a civic duty, on the recommendation of Public Health England, to close the facility down, so what do you do? There are a few things involved in all the decisions, as the government well knows, so we have to play our part in that.

“The fairness of the whole thing? I wouldn’t say it will pan out because I wouldn’t wish what we’ve gone through on any team, but sometimes these things in life can go in swings and roundabouts a little bit.

“What’s the point in whinging? I can try and score points in terms of anything we’ve lost out on, but I think that wouldn’t encourage us.

“It is what it is and it’s our job to get on with it.”

Lastly, news broke on Thursday former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell, who Kidney coached at Munster to European Cup titles in 2006 and 2008 and at Ireland to a 2009 Grand Slam, had joined the Ireland set-up as forwards coach.

“For the Ireland team, it’s brilliant,” Kidney said. “I think he’ll [O’Connell] bring an enormous amount to it.

“But on a personal level, I know that Paul will bring everything to it. The team that he’s working with, they’ll gain from it.

“It’ll be interesting, but he will be a good addition.”

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