Rob Kearney happy to shut down idea of revenge over Argentina
Irish fullback says World Cup quarter final can be learned from but not focused on
Ireland’s Rob Kearney stands dejected at the end of their quarter-final defeat to Argentina at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho
The revenge theme has played itself out this week. It ran its course for a day or two, stopped, self deflated and hasn’t moved since. The truth is that Rob Kearney is probably right, with revenge being an all consuming impulse there would have been nothing left for Argentina come Saturday.
Kearney knows more about the nature of reprisal and animus to understand that this week has nothing to do with the past for around half of the Irish team.
That’s not to say there’s a compartment of the Irish fullback’s psyche that regrets a day that was the most disappointing of an international career that now spans a decade.
Tadhg Furlong also rocked up on Tuesday to say his memory of the match against Argentina came from the stands in the Principality Stadium, where he was stationed with a hand held camera to catch the side of the scrum that television did not show.
Irish scrum coach Greg Feek arrived later to point out the prop had forgotten to turn on the camera for the first five minutes. It’s fair to say, as the players often do, that there were ‘learnings’ to be taken and also not much went right that day in Cardiff in October 2015.
From Kearney, though, there is no talk of retribution, no construct of Saturday being an opportunity to avenge a shattering World Cup experience. Forgetting 43-20 is difficult but there is honesty in Kearney’s recollection.
“It’s all negative, 100 per cent,” he says. “That is as bad a game as I can remember in an Irish jersey. It was a World Cup. It was a quarterfinal. We’d done so well in the games before that.
“There was this massive goal we had as a team of getting to a semi final. We lost a few key bodies but we felt we had enough personnel to still win the game. I think the start was gutting for us but we showed great character to get back into it. We let it slip again so there’s very few positives that we took from that game.
“The World Cup performance will be something spoken a little bit about on the outside. We’d like to think we are a very different team than we were two years ago. We’ve changed our defence system significantly. We defended poorly that day.”
Defensive coach, Less Kiss soon left the Irish position to take up a post as Director of Rugby with Ulster. Fellow former league player Andy Farrell arrived and went on Ireland’s summer tour the following year with his own system, now tried and trusted against the best.
Then again, there is value in muck. No one is discarding the experience or the chain of systems failures that resulted in four Argentina tries and nine out of 10 kicks at goal landed by outhalf Nicolas Sanchez.
“A lot of the guys who played then we expect to play this week,” says Kearney. At a guess Schmidt will start with Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray, Iain Henderson, Devin Toner, Rory Best and Cian Healy, all of whom played that day.
“When we go through some of their (Argentina) profiles there will be clips of that game that we played two years ago. It’s tough viewing but it’s part of the job. You have got to look at those tough times as well.
“It’s unprofessional to focus too much on that game because this group is very process driven. We are very driven on just a lot of moments within an 80 minutes game. As soon as we start getting distracted by peripheral things like a game that happened two years ago you take your eye off the ball. That’s something we try not to do.”
Kearney’s relationship with the team in recent years has been defined by injury and health. The older bones. He’s young but a rugby 31-year-old seems farther than a decade from 21-years-old. His battles now are on two fronts.
“It was nice to finish a game and not get hurt and back up the Tuesday training,” he says. “The important thing for me now is keeping my body in good shape and getting as much game time as I can.
“The mood has been good,” he adds. “We were happy with the result (against Fiji). But there was a fair bit of our performance that we picked apart on Monday. It was probably a close enough escape at the end.”
Kearney is no cheek-turner. If anything defines him it is his locking into a high ball, that courage and dependability. The talk from him is not of redress or punishing the Argentinean team, no rushing headlong for payback and no self destructive urge to stir the embers of frustration and grievance.
“We’ve moved on, as have they,” says the stoic fullback. Hopefully. But, in another instinctive, subversion-of-logic way, hopefully not.