Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has defended his captain Jamie Heaslip, insisting that he has no regrets about naming the Leinster number 8 as skipper.
Heaslip has been under intense scrutiny since he replaced Brian O’Driscoll as Ireland captain and with just one win from three Six Nations games, doubts have been raised over the decision.
Following last week’s defeat to Scotland, Heaslip’s decisions as captain during that game have attracted plenty of criticism, particularly the choice to kick for the corner when early penalties were awarded.
Ireland have appeared rudderless at times in both the Scotland game and the earlier defeat to England, but Kidney insists that Heaslip is doing well and that he has his full support.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Game On, Kidney said: "I suppose the nature of this role is that whoever’s leading when it goes astray is always going to come in for that little bit of criticism.
"All that I know is that Jamie is doing a very good job, he’s making the right decisions and he’s doing excellent work around the team room.
"He had a good game the last day (against Scotland), which is always the first prerequisite of a captain and we had the bonus of Brian playing well too so I think it’s a win-win for the team."
Kidney admitted to disappointment about how the Six Nations campaign has gone thus far, although he insisted that there are positives.
"I have absolutely 100% belief that they will come through and I look forward to that day for everybody." - Declan Kidney.
The head coach pointed to the number of young players coming through and claimed that the future of Irish international rugby is in a good place.
"I’m disappointed for the players, that they’re not getting their rewards that their work deserves but sometimes you just have to stay the course.
"I know that they will come through, I have absolutely 100% belief that they will come through and I look forward to that day for everybody," he said.
"The Championship is gone from us this year so what we have to do is reset some goals. For the younger players France and Italy are going to be in our group in the World Cup in three years time so we have to take a look at that side of it.
"Last year we had two wins and a draw, let’s see can we get the three wins this year. It’s all about resetting goals and seeing the young players that are coming through," Kidney added.
"The group that won the Grand Slam had it’s own disappointments on the way up to winning the ‘Slam and this group have had a few disappointments but they’re learning from it, they’re taking it on the chin and they’re getting better all the time."
The Irish head coach insists that the results will come and that the future is bright.
"The good thing about it is, and I think the frustrating thing about last Sunday is that we had a couple of new lads in, a couple of lads who don’t have a whole lot of caps under their belt and we nearly won a match," he said.
“When we do manage to get that win under our belt and we have all the other fellas coming back, that can leave us in a very strong place in the future."