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By Neale Harvey
Donncha O’Callaghan says Declan Kidney is the ideal man to revive London Irish after revealing how the head coach who helped forge Donncha’s stellar career never received the credit he deserved for leading Munster and Ireland to trophy success.
Worcester second row O’Callaghan won two Heineken Cups and a Six Nations Grand Slam in the Noughties under Kidney, who is now charged with leading relegated Irish back to the Premiership.
O’Callaghan told TRP: “Declan got no credit for what he did with Munster and Ireland. Everyone said what a special group of players it was but we were lucky to have him as our coach because he’s a winner and a great competitor.
“Professional rugby is cruel at the top level and players can be awful in terms of it being an easy out to blame coaches and management. But he’s never been like that, he’s always been selfless and he’ll bring that spirit and culture to London Irish.
“The greatest fear at all clubs at the moment is that you lose a bit of your culture with all the money creeping into the game. But that’s not what Declan’s about at all, he’s phenomenal about making sure it’s special for everyone within the club.”
Irish are losing young stars like Joe Cokanasiga and Johnny Williams but will retain a core group of their academy graduates in the Championship.
Recalling his early experiences with Kidney, below, O’Callaghan adds: “Declan coached me from the age of 18 and we had a few rocky, bumpy roads, but it was always driven by him seeking perfection from me and he always wanted higher standards.
“He certainly helped enhance me as a person and a player and made me go beyond my potential and he’ll do an incredible job at London Irish. My advice to their players is that if they’re honest and loyal with him, they will be repaid tenfold.”
O’Callaghan has retired after a career that encompassed two Lions tours in 2005 and 2009, 94 Ireland caps and a bucket load of silverware.
After spending the last three years at Worcester, finishing 10th in his first before successive 11th place finishes, O’Callaghan said: “I’ll go back to Cork but I’ve no plans to coach. I’ll spend the summer with my family and then look at options.”
Having flirted with relegation, O’Callaghan feels off-field stability is key to Worcester’s future. He added: “It’s been a difficult season but we can be quite proud of maintaining our Premiership place with all the excuses around the place.
“There’s a great crop of youngsters but it’s important that there’s cohesion at the club from top to bottom.
“You can say things like takeover talk shouldn’t affect you, but it affects everyone and the players need those excuses removing.”
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