Kearney confident of making up for lost time

“That scanning machine, that was a low point,” says the Leinster fullback eager to provide some highs in Australia.

Kearney hits the steps as the squad trains behind him.
Kearney hits the steps as the squad trains behind him.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IT’S ONLY A month since Rob Kearney last played rugby.

Only a month since that iconic image of him flying over the Stade Francais try-line was captured.

Since then, he’s carried a hamstring injury halfway around the world and been held in cold storage by Lions coach Warren Gatland for the biggest Tests down the road.

A week out from the commencement of hostilities against Australia, Kearney will finally emerge off the bench in Sydney this morning when the Waratahs become the latest side placed in front of the tourists.

“Things happen so quickly,” Kearney says with the tone of a man who needs it to be true. His mood will have rarely endured such an intense swing as it did when the facing the medical team for a scan in Hong Kong.

“I tell you, in that scanning machine, that was a low point. Because I had no idea what the results were going to read,” Kearney says.

“It could have gone either way. I could have been getting the first flight back to Dublin or going off with the lads to Australia.

“It does give you a bit of perspective. When you see a couple of boys – Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins – having to head home, you start to feel a little bit that luck might be on your side.

“Then this weekend, to get a chance to put the jersey on is a fantastic feeling, albeit it might be a bit late.”

Kearney accepts that the odds of squeezing into a Test jersey in seven short days’ time are stacked against him. He credits Leigh Halfpenny as a “fantastic” fullback going “from strength to strength.” However, he knows – despite what his teammates may say – Gatland hasn’t kept him around this long just for the spin.

Having impressed with every passing minute in South Africa, the Welsh coach has always had the Louthman in his plans. And with the knowledge that he wasn’t about to be turfed out lightly, Kearney’s confidence only grew stronger.

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Putting his best foot forward with Jonathan Sexton. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“Gats, in Hong Kong, said: if you need two weeks to get fit, take it. When you have that sort of clarity from a coach it makes it easy to focus your own mind, you don’t start wandering too much.

“You do take solace from that and it spurs you on to want to get fit a bit quicker and repay the faith that he’s shown in you.”

His chance to do that will come in the next few hours, but he remains wary of trying too hard with a potential three weeks of rugby still ahead of him.

“That’s where, I’d like to think, a little bit of experience comes in to play. I’m lucky I’m in a position where doing the basics and consistency is rewarded.

“I know I don’t have to come on the field and make a 60 metre break, score two tries and knock over a few drop-goals to put myself in the frame.”

He doesn’t have to, but it might help.

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Sean Farrell

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