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'It's unbelievably competitive' - A LOT of talented wings are fighting for Schmidt's attention

Leinster’s Dave Kearney is hoping strong club form can get him some more international recognition.

Kearney scored a try in Leinster's home defeat to the Dragons back in February.
Kearney scored a try in Leinster's home defeat to the Dragons back in February.
Image: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

IN 2011, Declan Kidney picked four pure wings in his World Cup squad so if Joe Schmidt does the same, there will be a lot of talented spectators observing the tournament with the rest of the Irish rugby public.

Judging by who has been included in recent squads, there are seven players vying for those four spots – Andrew Trimble, Craig Gilroy, Tommy Bowe, Simon Zebo, Luke Fitzgerald, Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney. And you could push that to eight depending on whether Schmidt sees Keith Earls competing at centre or out wide.

After an injury-interrupted season, Dave Kearney is someone who could do with a storming finish to this campaign to ensure that he maximises his selection chances.

After starting all five games in Ireland’s Six Nations win last year, Kearney was a frustrated on-looker this time around.

But with Leinster still in the Pro12 hunt and with a European quarter-final to look forward to, the wing has an opportunity to catch Joe Schmidt’s eye.

“It’s unbelievably competitive,” Kearney said when asked about the talent at his position.

“Back three and back row, there are a lot of good players there. There were completely different wingers last year than there was this year so that just goes to show the quality and the strength in depth that is there. Unless you are performing poorly, Joe kept faith with the wingers who were there until the last game and it was the same last year. Unless guys are getting knocks it doesn’t really open the door for other guys and the next five or six weeks are really important.”

Kearney got a good run of games during the Six Nations and while he showed signs of getting back to his best, the team struggled. After picking up 19 points out of a possible 20 during the corresponding time last year, the Pro12 champions could only manage one win and eight points this year.

Leinster host Glasgow at the RDS on Friday and Kearney knows that this is one of his side’s biggest games of the year.

“During the Six Nations block we probably didn’t finish it the way we would have liked, dropping out of the top four,” Kearney said.

“We probably didn’t pick up as much points as we would have hoped for. It is a massive week this week, coming up against the in-form team in the Pro12 this season.”

Kearney scored his first league try of the season in the defeat to Dragons and although Leinster lost away to the Scarlets, the wing linked well with his colleagues in the backline during the opening half.

try

Kearney admits that an improvement is needed from Leinster if they are to get past Glasgow on Friday.

“It [Leinster's form] has been pretty patchy, especially during the Six Nations block,” Kearney said.

“Losing to the Dragons at home and to the Scarlets, we had a good first half and a poor second half. Against the Ospreys we were a bit better and our defence was good. The next five weeks are unbelievably important for shaping the rest of our season.”

While Leinster had the luxury of naming reasonably strong teams even in the absence of some key internationals, you can’t underestimate what the return of their Ireland contingent will do to the side.

Seeing Sean O’Brien back at his rampaging best is just one reason Kearney thinks the province can finish the season back on a podium.

“If you are winning trophies every season that is what people expect,” Kearney said.

“We are going to get a lot of lads back in the next few weeks and there is no reason why we can’t win silverware again. We have a strong squad.”

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