Kearney could head down south for game time


RUGBY:THE IRFU have confirmed they are exploring the possibility of providing Leinster and Ireland fullback Rob Kearney with an opportunity to play matches during July in the Southern Hemisphere. The 25-year-old has not played since damaging knee ligaments against New Zealand during the November Test series.

He returned to light training with Leinster in recent weeks but will not be considered for Saturday’s Magners League final against Munster at Thomond Park.

The player has been linked with the Stormers franchise in South Africa but Western Province spokesman Gavin Lewis, speaking in an interview with a local paper, said no official contact had been made between the parties.

It is understood the IRFU are pursuing a number of options that may include Australia rather than simply South Africa. A spokesperson for the union said: “Rob has already been given the all-clear by the medical teams to resume full training and the current plan is to continue with a fitness programme to put him in a position to play some games in mid July.

“We are currently investigating options for games in that period but nothing has been agreed at this point. There are no other injured players being considered for game time during this period as they are not in the same position as Rob in terms of injury and their rehabilitation.”

The last statement refers several players who are injured. Munster prop Tony Buckley – he joins Sale Sharks during the summer – will have a minor shoulder procedure carried out shortly while scrumhalf Tomás O’Leary will have specialised treatment on a back problem after Saturday’s game at Thomond Park.

Ulster duo Andrew Trimble and Paddy Wallace, both sidelined since April with fractured thumbs, are expected to have recovered fully in time for Ireland’s first camp in Maynooth on June 26th while Jerry Flannery, Stephen Ferris and Geordan Murphy should be ready for Ireland’s August pre-World Cup programme which includes four internationals and a recently-added fixture against Connacht.

The latter match will take place on the night of Friday, August 19th, probably at UCD’s Belfield Bowl (not confirmed yet), a day before the national side face France at the Aviva Stadium.

The IRFU expect to be in a position to announce within the next fortnight whether they have secured a playing option for Kearney during the summer.

The player took a full part in Leinster’s squad session at Belfield yesterday for the first time since his injury. Speaking at a press briefing, Leinster’s kicking and skills coach Richie Murphy admitted: “We actually know nothing about that in Leinster and Rob knows nothing about that either, so I can’t give you any information.

“Maybe the IRFU have some background on it but we don’t have any information on that at the moment.”

The province did confirm an agreement, announced by Leinster Rugby’s chief executive Mick Dawson and the president of UCD Dr Hugh Brady, that will see them move their training, conditioning and administration to the Belfield campus and also develop a number of educational, research and commercial initiatives.

The partnership will allow Leinster to establish a new high-performance training unit on the Belfield campus adjacent to UCD’s state-of-the-art Institute of Sport and Health (ISH). In addition, Leinster will avail of UCD’s extensive suite of top-class synthetic and grass pitches, while players will have access to the college’s expanding suite of physiological and biochemical testing platforms and sports medicine facilities.

Research collaborations will be developed in areas such as high-performance science, sensor technology, bio-engineering and sports physiology. Players will also be encouraged to enrol in UCD courses, using the flexible modular UCD Horizons curriculum to prepare for a career after rugby.

Meanwhile, Nigel Owens will take charge of the Magners League Grand Final between Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park on Saturday. The 39-year-old official is not a stranger to contests between the Irish provinces.

One of his favourite rugby memories is the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final between the two great Irish rivals in front of world record club crowd of 82,208 fans at Croke Park. He was also in charge of the play-off game between the two finalists in Dublin last year, when Leinster beat Munster 16-6.

He presided over Munster’s Heineken Cup final victory over Toulouse (16-13) in 2008 and the following year refereed a second successive final when Leinster triumphed 19-16 against Leicester Tigers at Murrayfield.