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Kearney and Earls eager for returns after Conway and Larmour impress

The Leinster fullback is expecting Japan to pose a tougher test than Scotland.

ROB KEARNEY IS honest enough to admit he was torn as he sat in the stand in Yokohama on Sunday and watched Ireland beating Scotland to start the World Cup in encouraging fashion.

He was happy that his team had won, of course, and happy that Jordan Larmour had impressed at fullback, but another part of him didn’t enjoy seeing someone else excel at 15.

“I don’t want him to go really well, but I want him to go well,” is how Kearney puts it.

rob-kearney Kearney is set for his return this weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 33-year-old is back in full training with Ireland this week and could make his return from a foot injury on Saturday against Japan in Shizuoka, where he will be eager to lay down a marker after Larmour’s showing last time out.

“With Jordan, given we’re provincial team-mates, I’ve had to endure that a lot over the last few years,” says Kearney.

“So, yeah, it is tough but at the same time, you have to be happy for them as well. It was a big game for him.

“It was a big opportunity but it was a big challenge for him as well and he passed it with flying colours. He’s such a good young lad and you can’t help but be very pleased for him.”

Keith Earls, also expected to return this weekend after sitting out the Scotland with a knee issue, is in the same boat as Kearney.

The Munster wing watched on as Andrew Conway made an impression out wide for Ireland last weekend, scoring a try in their 27-3 win.

Kearney says he suffered his foot injury “less than five minutes” into Ireland’s training session two Sundays ago. It was majorly frustrating but the Leinster man is glad it didn’t happen later in the tournament.

“Had it been another point in the competition or further down the line maybe you would have rushed it a bit more but the consensus was to just try and manage it as best we could,” explains Kearney.

“The majority of people have gotten a game under their belt. So it’s an added little challenge on top of everything.

“But I suppose I’m lucky. I’ve played a lot of World Cup games before so I know what to expect. It’s just a matter of getting up to speed.”

Kearney and Earls certainly still appear to be first-choice selections even after last weekend’s impressive performance.

rob-kearney Kearney in Ireland's gym yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

If they do return on Saturday against Japan, they are anticipating a stronger challenge than what Scotland offered last weekend.

“Certainly that wasn’t as good as Scotland can play, they’ll probably be very disappointed with their performance,” says Kearney. 

“If you had to be very honest about it, will Japan pose a better threat than Scotland… you’d have to say yes based on what they produced at the weekend.

“It’s very important that we understand that as a team.”

Ireland will be favourites against the hosts at Ecopa Stadium and they are firmly focused on avoiding being this tournament’s version of South Africa in 2015, when the Boks were shocked by Japan in Brighton.

Kearney is tuned in about the threat Japan pose.

“This is their cup final,” says Kearney.

“So we’re certainly under no illusions as to what’s coming and this being the game that they’ve been eyeing up, and they’ll have huge support and it will be all guns blazing. It should be a fantastic occasion.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Hamamatsu

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