Rob Kearney keen to avoid ‘dip’ after high of All Black performance
Leinster fullback believes competition for places keeps players focused
Kearney on his way to scoring a try from distance against the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium last month. Photograph: Inpho
A feral look of anger blazed in his eyes and jutting body language was directed at fate more than anyone in particular for stalling the most dominant showing, perhaps ever, by an Irish rugby team.
The shiny stadium felt awfully provincial.
Or maybe he just refused to climb aboard the chopper until the last wounded soldier being treated on the grass got back to his feet.
By the way, Brian O’Driscoll passed his cognitive test.
“Sometimes it is hard to say where you are mentally,” Kearney told us yesterday. “It was a game that certainly I had been building up to for quite a while. I suppose having a few injuries during the week and not quite sure if you were in or out, your adrenaline kicks on a few gears. I think the manner in which the first half had gone for us I didn’t really want to go in at half-time. I would have liked to have stayed out and kept going.”
Then there was that moment when Kieran Read torpedoed in to his already fractured ribs. Up he got, refusing to show pain yet also turning away from the right-sided line kick with that siege-gun left boot. Grimace, continue.
Unbroken to the death, having produced heroics offensively and in defence, the wonder is whether he can go again a fortnight later against Northampton. Same applies to the Seánie O’Brien’s and Jamie Heaslip’s of this world. “You are not going to get to those levels every single week but you can get close to them. The important thing for us is we don’t have that big dip that we had (against Australia).”
Returning to the blue jersey has never been a problem. Kearney will be the fullback, O’Driscoll the outside centre, at Franklin’s Gardens but Dave Kearney and Ian Madigan may struggle to shift Zane Kirchner and Jimmy Gopperth. Leinster coach Matt O’Connor, when asked as much yesterday, indicated the Kiwi will be at outhalf while the Springbok may be rewarded for his performance last Saturday, at fullback against the Scarlets, with a man-marking job on George North on the wing.
“Well, so many of the skills are transferable (to wing),” said O’Connor. “A lot of the best wingers in the world are actual fullbacks. If you look at the Cory Jane’s . . . it gives the team a lot to have blokes who are out and out fullbacks in the back three.”
First Isa Nacewa now Kirchner, Rob Kearney has never been allowed relax as Leinster’s resident number 15. “I know no different,” he shrugged. “It gets the best out of guys.”
For Madigan, in what has become a recurring problem for young Irish players, chasing after international honours creates a catch 22 situation at home.
“Ian hasn’t been in the environment as long as Jimmy, preseason and November, so (Jimmy) had a bit of an advantage in relation to that, which he capitalised on and played very, very well,” O’Connor added. “And was outstanding on those first two Heineken Cup games and has continued that form through the Rabo. Jimmy has been very good for us, he has taken his opportunities, and Ian was very good at the weekend against Scarlets. It’s a tough call.”
A call that will be revealed at noon today.