Kearney's impressive pre-season pushes him to strong World Cup contention

The 26-year-old comes into the team after an excellent summer of training.

THERE’S BEEN A running joke in the Ireland squad this week ahead of the confirmation to the players of Joe Schmidt’s final 31-man World Cup squad on Sunday.

The Kiwi head coach will make some extremely difficult phone calls the day after Ireland’s meeting with Wales in Dublin to inform those who have missed the cut that their World Cup dream is over.

Dave Kearney Kearney will show his strength against Wales this weekend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Faced with that nervous wait, the Ireland players have looked to humour for solace.

“It’s something the lads have joked about,” said wing Dave Kearney this afternoon.

“Probably keep your phone off for the day and then just come out to Carton House the next day maybe.

“But look, it is going to be nervous for everybody. I don’t know how it’s going to work or what’s going to happen… we’re not going to want that call from Joe.”

Kearney himself is certainly within range of being part of that final squad for the World Cup, particularly if he can shine against the Welsh at the Aviva Stadium this weekend. Word from camp is that the 26-year-old’s training efforts have been exceptional.

The Louth man was an integral part of the 2014 Six Nations success under Schmidt, but his was essentially ruled out of a run at the 2015 version after a shoulder injury while on Champions Cup duty with Leinster last season.

Regardless of missing out in the most recent Ireland campaign, Kearney came back into camp this summer with a positive mindset. His markers in terms of S&C have apparently been extremely impressive too. 

Robbie Henshaw and Dave Kearney Kearney and Robbie Henshaw training earlier today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I think when we came back at the start of the pre-season, everybody was probably on the same slate,” said Kearney. “It’s probably like a fresh start. Last season was fairly interrupted for me but it’s a new year and training has gone well.

“Coming off the pre-season is when you’re in the best shape. You’re doing a lot of speed work, a lot of gym work, a lot of fitness work, so those first few games are probably when you’re feeling the best. It’s the same for everybody else probably, but I am feeling good.”

Kearney did feature in the closing months of Leinster’s 2014/15 season and felt that his form was strong, leaving him heading into this new campaign with a confidence that was only increased by his cameo against Scotland a fortnight ago.

The linebreak off Ian Madigan’s inside pass was “a nice touch to get on my first one,” and he will hope for similar opportunities against Wales.

Though he wore the 11 shirt for the 2014 Six Nations triumph, Kearney will be back in the Ireland XV with 14 on his back on Saturday. However, he explained that he is not a wing who has a set-in-stone preference for one side.

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“Some guys prefer being on the left, some prefer playing on the right,” said Kearney. “I think it’s important to be able to play both wings and cover fullback as well. The only difference really is left foot/right foot (for kicking).

Dave Kearney Kearney is sporting a patched-up left eyebrow at the moment. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“That was something I worked on a lot two years ago during the Six Nations, my left foot because I was playing on the left wing. You get used to it and at this stage I really don’t mind which wing it is.”

There’s no fuss with Kearney, simply a focus on the job at hand. Asked what he needs to show this weekend to convince Schmidt of his World Cup credentials, Kearney provided an answer that the Kiwi himself would have been proud of.

I think I need to do the simple things right. I think the worst thing to do is probably force things and try to get yourself into the game when it’s not right,” said Kearney.

“You’ve got to wait for things to unfold and if you work hard enough, you’ll put yourself in the right positions.”

Kearney has been doing exactly that so far.

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