Coach Declan Kidney says he is is impressed by the way Jamie Heaslip has approached the Ireland captaincy amid difficult circumstances, insisting he is making "strong decisions".

Heaslip has come under close scrutiny so far this RBS 6 Nations, with the Leinster number eight receiving criticism for providing a lack of leadership during the defeats by England and Scotland.

The 29-year-old, who succeeded Brian O'Driscoll as skipper before the championship, has been placed in charge at a time when the squad has been decimated by injury.

It has also been a period of transition for Ireland, who face France at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, and Kidney accepts Heaslip has inherited the post at a challenging time.

"When things aren't going as well as you want them to, you push the comments that are out there to one side and get on with your job," he said.

"Jamie has done that and done it very well. There's a bit of adversity around the place and it's the measure of a man as to how he deals with that.

"Jamie's making strong decisions for us and all we need to do is execute on those decisions."

Kidney denies Heaslip is struggling to stamp his authority on the team due to the presence of O'Driscoll, who has been relieved of the captaincy but continues to play at outside centre

"I would say quite the opposite actually, Brian being there has been a huge help. Now we have a couple of leaders speaking up," Kidney said.

"There have been times in the past when I've been prompting other players to speak up. Now Jamie and Brian do that role."

Kidney's own position is the subject of doubt and his chances of earning a contract extension beyond the summer appear to have died alongside Ireland's chances of winning the Six Nations.

"In rugby terms this has been the most challenging Six Nations I've experienced," Kidney said.

"There have been a lot of things happening outside our control that we've had to deal with. But I couldn't ask any more from the players.

"The frustrating thing is that we've put ourselves in positions to win matches. As a result of not taking one or two chances, we are where we are."

Live RBS 6 Nations coverage on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only) from 2pm on Saturday 9 March (Ireland v France 5pm) and 2.30pm on Sunday 10 March.

Live radio coverage of Ireland v France on Saturday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide) from 2pm.