up for it

Kearney well used to pressure for 15 jersey

Leinster’s fullback admits his last 18 months have brought a constant struggle with injury, but he’s in confident mood again.

A PROVEN STALWART, ready for an age old rivalry, Ireland fullback Rob Kearney hailed Scotland’s rapid improvement in the Test arena today.

Although head coach Vern Cotter will swap Edinburgh for Montpellier at the end of the season, in his last Six Nations he will sent out a side with a swelling confidence that they can challenge in the top half of the Championship thanks to their November victory over Argentina followed a narrow loss to Australia.

“They have improved greatly. The one-off team that they used to be, where they put in one or two big performances (has changed),” Kearney said as he headed up Ireland’s opening Six Nations press conference at Carton House. / YouTube

“They were very unlucky not to beat Australia in November. (Tevita) Kuridrani snuck through a gap late in the game and if it wasn’t for that superb piece of skill (Scotland) would have won.

“Their clubs sides are going really well, particularly Glasgow, they are one of the most dominant teams in Europe in the last three of four months.

“I think they look a very competent side that have progressed well over the last six months which always makes for a pretty dangerous combination.”

Rob Kearney Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Every Irish player is very familiar with Glasgow Warriors. This season it’s the Munster contingent who have the freshest experience of tackling the 2015 Pro12 champions — whose coach Gregor Townsend will take over the national role after Cotter departs.  In Kearney’s experience however, the knowledge is not wholly transferable no matter how many Glasgow players take the field.

I think you are getting into dangerous territory — although there are a lot of similarities between Glasgow and Scotland in terms of their key players, if you try and analyse them as a similar entity you can get yourself into a little trouble.”

One Munster man hoping his Champions Cup form against Glasgow can give him a place in Ireland’s back three – either in place of or alongside Kearney – is Simon Zebo. The Leinster 15 points to three other potential fullbacks still in the squad after Andrew Conway was ruled out with a groin injury and admits that he does feel the pressure that competition for places brings, but it’s far from a new sensation.

“I’ve been feeling like that for a long, long time, right back to Geordan (Murphy) and Girvan (Dempsey). Felix (Jones) went through a stage there… you’ve got Zeebs, you’ve got Tiernan (O’Halloran). There was a huge amount of chat about Jared (Payne) last year, so it’s not something new whatsoever. I’m fully aware of the huge level of competition that’s there.

“It’s really important now that with the depth there right across the whole board, I know if I’m not playing well, I won’t be there too long.”

In the aftermath of Ireland’s historic win over New Zealand in November, the Louth man openly discussed the pressure that he felt on his in the lead up to the game, revealing that Joe Schmidt kindly informed him that he would ‘need a big one’ in Soldier Field.

Ireland’s Rob Kearney Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Kearney agrees with the suggestion that his best performances can be created by that pressure, but points to his injury struggles as the reason he has experienced peaks and troughs since the World Cup.

“The thing I’ve struggled with the most for the last 18 months is that you’re not going to play well if your body is not in a particularly good place.

“I’ve learned that the hard way. If you’re feeling good, you’re confident, your body’s in a good place, you’ve got the backing of the coach, you’re around some world class players and it does become easier to go out and play well.”

Having bounced back from an ankle problem as a replacement in Leinster’s Champions Cup clashes with Montpellier and Castres, the 30-year-old is well placed to rise to the challenge for Ireland in Murrayfield.

The42 Rugby Show / SoundCloud

Subscribe to The42 Rugby Show podcast here:

Strength-based thinking can help you build self-esteem and perform better

How different is professional rugby to the good old days of amateurism?

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.