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Dublin: 16 °C Saturday 26 May, 2018
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Double try-scorer Kearney makes mark on Ireland debut

The debutant impressed with two tries in a 21 minute cameo but played down his starting chances for next week.

Kearney touches down for his second try last night.
Kearney touches down for his second try last night.
Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

COMPETITION; IT’S THE desired state of affairs within every rugby squad in the world, both club and international.

What’s rare is wonderful, and Ireland look to have that elusive strength in depth in several positions for the season ahead, none more so than on the wings.

Fergus McFadden was superb against Samoa, making gains every time he touched the ball and working extremely hard to come off his wing in phase play. While Tommy Bowe had a quiet outing on the right, his quality is proven. Keith Earls may return to the selection mix for the Australia game, while Dave Kearney’s performance off the bench deepens the immediate headache for Joe Schmidt.

Kearney’s two tries in 21 minutes made him the most prolific player on the pitch and the Louth native was happy to get his international career off to a scoring start.

Firstly, it’s great to get the win. [There are] probably a couple of things we have to work on for next week. The first half performance probably wasn’t the best, second half better.

“You know, Joe had a few words with us at half time and I think we upped our performance in the second half. Thankfully I was on the end of a couple of good moves to get in in the corner.”

Appearing off the bench is something that Kearney may have found unsettling, particularly as his eight appearances for Leinster this season have all been starts. In fact, over the course of the last three seasons, the 24-year-old has been used as a substitute only five times for his province.

In a positive sense, Kearney admitted that being selected on the bench meant that nerves were less of a factor as he made his debut for Ireland.

image

Kearney in full flight in the build-up to his second score. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.

“Obviously I was itching to get on from the start. I found out on 55 [minutes] that I was coming on in five minutes. So I had those five minutes to get my head around it and get ready for it. I think it’s probably similar enough to any other game.

“I like to approach games like they’re all the same, you know? Sometimes when you’re not in the starting 15, you’re not as nervous but then when the game starts you get a bit more nervous. Then on 55 I found out [I was going on], the nerves go and you just focus on getting on and what you need to do.”

If finishing attacking play is what wings need to do, then Kearney was pitch perfect against Samoa. For his first effort on 65 minutes, he got outside Samoan fullback Fa’atoina Autagavaia and stylishly dotted down with his left hand while his body was suspended in the air. The second score saw him involved in a thrilling passage of build-up play before taking a pass from Eoin Reddan to cross the whitewash.

Asked if he felt he had made his case for starting against Australia this weekend, Kearney refused to champion his chances.

Not really, no. There’s a lot of competition within the squad, we’ve a lot of strength in depth. It’s not great for me, but in the back three there’s a lot of talent and strength in depth there. So I think I’ve just got to build on this performance and build on that.”

Still, he could not be anything but pleased with his first Ireland cap. Jack McGrath’s man of the match display made it a good night for Ireland’s new boys, and the loosehead prop impressed every post-match too with his rendition of ‘Piano Man’.

How was Kearney planning on living up to the standard set by his fellow new cap?

“I’m a bit more nervous about that. I honestly don’t know yet. I’m literally going to have to go to the toilet now and learn something quick.”

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‘Samoa the appetiser, there’s a double main course to come’ — Schmidt

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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