RugbyU: Ireland keep mum on Kidney, O'Driscoll futures

Ireland coach Declan Kidney refused to speculate on his future and that of former captain Brian O'Driscoll after a torrid Six Nations campaign ended with a 22-15 defeat to Italy at Rome's Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

O'Driscoll, plagued by injury in the past three years, has been widely tipped to retire from the international game this year, with press reports earlier this week claiming Saturday's outing was probably his last for Ireland.

O'Driscoll recently became a father for the first time but Ireland's disappointing campaign is said to have prompted him to bring forward his retirement at the age of 34.

He was also reported to be unhappy by the dropping from the squad of close friend and record caps holder Ronan O'Gara last week, as well as being contentiously replaced as national captain by Jamie Heaslip.

However after Saturday's defeat no team announcements were made and the iconic centre, voted the player of the tournament three times, did not appear to speak to waiting reporters.

O'Driscoll, 34, could decide to end his career after the British and Irish Lions' tour of Australia in the summer.

In the meantime, Kidney said O'Driscoll should be allowed time and space to decide whether his Ireland career is indeed over.

"He's earned the respect to be given the time and space to make up his own mind. I think it needs to be right for the player. Players know when the time is," said Kidney.

Kidney's own contract is up this year but the 53-year-old former mathematics teacher -- who led Ireland to the Grand Slam and Triple Crown in his first year as coach in 2009 -- said he, too, would need time to reflect.

"I've said all along I'm going to concentrate on each game as it comes," he said.

Asked if he wanted a new contract, Kidney said: "I'd have to sit back and think about that first."