Kearney embracing Leinster’s future
Leinster may be in transition but there is enough talent to make the future bright
Rob Kearney: not thinking about Lions tours or Ireland woes . . . just about Leinster.
Blind panic is a raised eyebrow. Rob Kearney knows Leinster need some repointing and a little bit of reinforcement work on the foundations. But all in all, he reckons the house of Joe Schmidt is in good order and there is a league to be conquered and a European trophy, even if not the one preferred, to be won.
There are challenges ahead and Kearney concedes not all of them are on the pitch. Not all of them revolve around the short term weekend scoreline.
Isa Nacewa’s yearning for home has topped a list of players leaving the three-time European champions. Andrew Conway, Fionn Carr, Jonny Sexton and maybe before the season is finished, Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen, with Luke Fitzgerald and Eoin Reddan long-term injuries.
The bookies have Schmidt as one of the preferred options for the Ireland job in an environment where nobody is jumping to quell the speculation that Declan Kidney ’s position will soon need filling.
That’s a lot of change to assimilate and here is Kearney as close to meltdown as he gets, this time the other eyebrow arched. Transition?
A good thing
“Yeah, I think so. Definitely,” he says. “But it’s important to realise there is no reason this transition can’t be a good thing for us. Transition doesn’t always mean you need to regress. That would be my hope. There will be freshness there, new faces, new game managers on the field. A lot of things are going to happen.
“Isa was a pure class act on the field and off it,” he says. “When you want to be a successful team you need good guys around. There has to be a brotherhood and he was exactly the type of person any team would want and need. “We’re losing a fantastic player, someone hugely influential and incredibly consistent. He very rarely had a poor game. That’s what sets him apart, his consistency and his ability to make the right decision.”
In the readjustment Kearney may assume an even more senior role. Leinster ’s homely feel may have been busted by Sexton’s bold choice but there is intellectual capital around that’s blue chip. Maybe Kearney’s reluctance to get spooked about the miscellaneous bag of speculation is justified. Or he knows more.
He refers to the players coming back: Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Jamie Heaslip and Seán O’Brien): “We’ve all been in Leinster for at least five years, me and Jamie seven years, Gordon, Brian . . . countless years. Leinster, it’s like you’re going back to your home club.”
Kearney may speak softly but the Ireland and Lions fullback has an intensity and thinks hard about his game. His injury issues and a run in with the Union over his contract, as well as his 27th birthday arriving in a few weeks, add up to a pragmatic eye.
In the now
Players, he says, tend to live life in the now. But Fitzgerald’s injury forces that point; there is always an issue that requires airing, surely?
“No, no. It might sound difficult to believe,” he says, “there is always speculation about these things, not just coaches. But about something . . . who’s going to play outhalf this week, who’s not going to be in the team, who’s going to be captain, who’s going to be coach. It becomes part of an everyday life. It’s always there. You lose sight of it.
“We (players) rarely discuss the future. People are always talking about the future and looking forward. But in our job its important you just worry about the immediate future and that’s the game.
“As soon as you begin to lose sight of that everything can become a shambles.”
The Lions, the summer tour, next season . . . all too far away. Kearney’s immediate future is now and his brother Dave, who plays fullback and wing, may be involved. With Fitzgerald out he can expect game time.
“It is strange, I probably should see him as another person in the way of me achieving what I want to achieve. Unfortunately it’s not like that. Family bonds are strong. As the more experienced one I feel I have a duty to help him along with his career, help him become a better player.”
Brotherhood in Leinster. Kearney’s right. It lives.