Kearney: Sexton didn't want to leave and his transfer could open the floodgates
Make it better
“You have to make it better. Players don’t really want to get involved in these discussions during the Six Nations, when they shouldn’t really be happening. I think how players feel, their state of mind going on to the field has to be their priority. But it has been like that for years. I can’t see it changing a huge amount for the future.”
Chaired by Martin O’Sullivan and with Tom Grace, Pat Whelan, Eddie Wigglesworth and Philip Browne sitting in, the review group meets regularly with the manager and the coach. They hold discussions every week of the Six Nations Championship and also during the November international series and will hold a meeting this week where the issue of player contracts will be raised.
“Myself and Declan will be sitting down with them this week,” said manager Kearney. “It is one thing we will bring up. It is really important that players go into a Six Nations prepared in the best possible manner, mentally, physically, emotionally.
“If there is some bit of a drag on them emotionally in terms of a contract that is something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“As Rob says, going in the week before your major tournament for the year with a worry hanging over your contract, it is not ideal and it is certainly something that needs to be worked on in the future.”
Kearney’s apparent insecurity is no different from that of any other player. Having played just two and a half matches since his back injury, the shop window of the Six Nations is an important tool and while it can cut both ways, he’s sensitive to the need to demonstrate that he is back to where he once was as one of the best fullbacks in world rugby.
Opportunity for change is available to him. But Leinster is in his bones. Sexton’s departure was more a familial wrench than a business arrangement and Kearney feels a similar loyalty. In one sense that is a stunning IRFU success.
“Of course, you think about it,” he said of leaving. “The last time there was options. If I went looking this time I’m sure there would be options.
“But when you are with a club . . . you’ve grown up there . . . you enjoy playing with your colleagues and friends. You’re competitive and you are winning trophies in Europe, it’s difficult to justify why you would want to leave.
“So yeah, the thought has always been there but I’ve never really had any reason for wanting to leave.”