Rob Kearney believes that the frank and open discussion that Ireland boss Declan Kidney chaired with his players last Christmas played a ‘massive’ part in their Grand Slam success.
Kidney arrived at the helm at the end of the summer, inheriting a side still reeling after their calamitous 2007 World Cup campaign.
Indeed, there had been incessant rumours of player unrest in France – and also during the equally embarrassing Championship campaign which followed.
As a result, Kidney decided upon clear-the-air talks after the autumn internationals. The venue was the Marriott Hotel in Enfield.
“That meeting was massive. We were there for three days and we did only 45 minutes on the pitch,” Leinster full-back Kearney is quoted as saying by The Sun.
”That’s where a lot of the groundwork was done. That was one of the occasions which went a long way to building a team.
”A lot of people were laying things down the line, just being truthful and honest. You had to have a thick skin.
”There were a lot of things thrown from both ends, but it’s the sign of a great team that you can take those things on board.
”There’s so much to be said for a close, tight unit. When the chips are down, that’s when you need the close teams – you need to be playing with your friends.
”Over the last six months, since Declan has come in, I can certainly now say that everyone I play with now is a friend rather than a colleague.”
Kidney played down the significance of his role in the meeting, merely insisting that it made sense for him to afford the players a forum in which to air their views.
”That [the meeting] was our opportunity When November was over, we sat down,” he explained.
”We had a good, frank discussion. We opened it up, asked the players what they thought. It was nothing hugely scientific. I’m not saying I’m a management consultant or anything, but it was just saying: ‘Let’s be honest with one another now. What are the issues?’
”By talking about it, and through a little bit of slagging, all of a sudden a whole lot of doors were opened.”