Dave Kearney well versed with Cuthbert’s qualities

The Leinster and Ireland wing will put pen to paper on a next contract this week


Dave Kearney passed on the opportunity to play rugby’s version of charades with regard to contract negotiations. This week the 24-year-old Leinster and Ireland wing will formally commit his future to province and country.

He confirmed as much at Carton House yesterday. “”It’s pretty much sorted now. I’m going to look to get in now in the next couple of days and sign up. I’m really happy. It is obviously where I want to play and where I want to be.”

Financial considerations aside, the playing aspect of his decision must have been straightforward. Two years ago, Kearney sat on the bench for a Six Nations match against Saturday’s visitors to the Aviva Stadium, Wales.

He could reasonably have considered a first cap to be in the offing then, but while it has taken a little longer – he made a two try debut against Samoa last November – any impatience is tempered by an acknowledgement that his game has matured nicely in the interim.

“I found myself in a good position to have a chance of getting my first cap [THEN, 2012]and, unfortunately, that didn’t come until another year and a half later. In that meantime, I played with the [IRELAND)]As, got a lot of Heineken Cup game time and developed as a player.

“I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable. On a personal level, I think I took a lot from the All Blacks game which would have been my first start for Ireland. When you look at the quality of guys that they have in their team, [WHEN)]you find yourself playing against the best team in the world . . . I was happy with my performance that day. I think I took a lot of confidence from that.”

Last Sunday he faced a six foot three inch Lions wing Sean Maitland – before the Kiwi suffered an unfortunate concussion and leg injury – and on Saturday he’ll swap that tricky assignment for an arguably even tougher remit in chaperoning, the six foot six inch Alex Cuthbert, a Lions test wing and the top try scorer in last season’s Six Nations Championship.

Kearney won’t be fazed because the pair have clashed several times in the respective colours of Leinster and Cardiff.

“We’ve done a lot of video work on their backline and then it is obviously down to you as well to do a bit of work too. From an individual point you just can’t afford to give them that much space because when you give guys like [GEORGE]North and [ALEX)]Cuthbert space they will take it.”

A buzz word in rugby parlance these days is “contestables”, a term used to describe box-kicks or garryowens, delivered so that players are able to compete in the air. As befits a former Cooley Kickhams midfielder Kearney relishes the aerial duels, an aspect of the game in which Ireland coach Joe Schmidt places great store.

“Joe was pretty happy with how it went (against Scotland). There were still a couple of ones that we could have taken on the full as opposed to a couple of times where we got slap-backs which are obviously still good but our main focus is to catch that ball in the air.

Modern game
“It is something that is a really big part of our game and a really important part of the modern game for back three players as a whole. This week it is going to be a bit different although [Scotland’s Sean] Lamont is a big player like North and Cuthbert, it will be pretty hard to get over the top of them.

“[IT IS] definitely [something that we] practice more, especially since Joe [SCHMIDT)]came into Leinster. It’s what we did first on the first couple of days training for which Joe took us [after taking over as coach].

“It’s so important now that he wants not just back three players but your centres as well and 10s, you might find yourself in those positions as well, to be able to take high balls and be dominant in the air. It’s a really important part of our game, in any back three’s games these days.”

Kearney knows what lies ahead. “He’s got good gas [CUTHBERT)]and he’s very strong on the ball. Maybe, he’s a tiny bit different to North in that North likes to step a bit more where Cuthbert likes using his gas. He’s [CUTHBERT)]good in the air, good defensively; it’s going to be a good test.”

There should be no nasty surprises.