Rugby union Paul Rees
Ireland will decide early next month whether to offer Declan Kidney a new contract as head coach after they review their worst ever Six Nations campaign which dropped them to ninth in the world rankings, their lowest ever position. Their woe was compounded on Monday night when their centre Brian O'Driscoll, a candidate to lead the Lions in Australia this summer, was cited for stamping in what may have been his final appearance for his country.
Ireland finished fifth despite winning their opening game against Wales in Cardiff with a total of three points. The only other time they had finished in the bottom half of the table was in 2008 when they were fourth after winning two matches.
Kidney, who masterminded Ireland's first grand slam in more than 60 years in 2009, will meet with the Irish Rugby Football Union's national team review group on Wednesday to discuss the Six Nations campaign. His contract ends after the summer tour to the Americas, but if a change is made it is likely to be before that with reports that a decision will be made within three weeks.
"I have to sit down and think about whether I want a new contract," said Kidney, who suffered wretched misfortune with injuries that continued from before the start of the tournament to the end in Rome on Saturday when Ireland suffered their first Six Nations defeat to Italy. "The players are a pleasure to work with, but beyond that I have got to sit back and think about it."
O'Driscoll faces a ban of up to a month if he is found guilty of stamping or trampling on the Italy flanker Simone Favaro 29 minutes into the match. He was sent to the sin-bin by the referee Wayne Barnes having appeared to have brought his right boot down on the body of the forward, who was lying on the wrong side of a ruck.
Ireland had the worst disciplinary record of any side in the Six Nations with five players sent to the sin-bin and the prop Cian Healy banned for three weeks, a punishment which saw him miss one Test, after being cited for stamping on the ankle of the England prop Dan Cole.
Kidney said he hoped that O'Driscoll, who faces missing Leinster's Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final at Wasps next month with a date for his hearing yet to be set, will not end his Ireland career after 125 caps. The centre, who was replaced as captain by Jamie Heaslip this season, has said he will make an announcement on his future before the end of the season.
Ireland avoided the wooden spoon by beating France on points difference, who also suffered their worst Six Nations campaign. Their one victory came on the final day against Scotland and their coach Philippe Saint-André, who has called for closer ties between the national team and the Top 14 clubs, will meet with the French Rugby Federation later this month.
He is halfway through his contract and the summer sees the little matter of a three-Test tour to New Zealand, their conquerors in the 2011 World Cup final. Saint-André said he had no intention of standing down, adding: "Our objective all along has been to get ready for the next World Cup and we will learn a lot from the last couple of months. All we have lacked if efficiency: once we get that, we could be a very nice team in 2015. We have started to build something."
Scotland, who finished third after being whitewashed last year, are waiting to hear whether Scott Johnson, who took over as interim head coach last December after Andy Robinson resigned, is interested in taking over full-time. "I've said from day one I will sit down with the appropriate people after the tournament and we will work it out," he said. "We will have a proper discussion.
"I am proud to have coached this bunch of lads and I am happy to keep playing a part, but if the powers-that-be deem otherwise, so be it. I want to do the best for Scotland and I want them to be a really good rugby nation."
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