# decision to make
Kearney: 'I'm going to play after the World Cup but no further down the road as to where'
The Leinster fullback says he will make a decision on his future in the ‘next month or so.’

LAST UPDATE | Dec 4th 2018, 9:12 AM

ROB KEARNEY SAYS he will continue to play rugby beyond next year’s World Cup, but faces a decision over whether to remain at Leinster or seek a move elsewhere for the final years of his career. 

The 32-year-old is out of contract with the IRFU in November 2019 and while Kearney has no intention to retire, suggested he could be open to the possibility of earning one bumper pay cheque in France before calling time on his playing career.

Rob Kearney Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Kearney speaking to the media in UCD yesterday. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Kearney, capped 87 times, signed a contract extension with the union through to next year’s World Cup in Japan earlier this year and remains an integral part of Joe Schmidt’s side, starting 10 of Ireland’s 12 Test matches this calendar year.

Speaking yesterday, the fullback said he parked the discussion over his future until after the November internationals but has since decided he will play beyond 2019, although is not sure whether that will be with Leinster or not. 

Kearney will begin talks with the IRFU in the coming weeks and given his services to both Ireland and Leinster, will surely be offered the chance to finish his career as a one-club man but didn’t rule a move abroad out. 

“I wanted to leave it until after November just before I had any thoughts on it,” he said.

“I’ve made the decision now that I’m going to play after the World Cup, in some capacity. So, I’m still no further down the road as to where.”

Kearney added: “It wasn’t in doubt [over playing on] but I just didn’t want to put myself under too much pressure…just to see how the body was first and I always find that where I’m at physically is determined by where I am mentally.

“When my body is good and I feel fresh, and we’re winning, it’s very hard not to really enjoy what you’re doing and keep wanting for more.

“It’s something that I need to start the process of in the next month or so.”

While Kearney’s comments may be interpreted as a negotiating tool to earn one final IRFU contract, there would be no shortage of potential suitors lining up to secure his signature given the Louth native’s trophy-laden CV and reputation as one of the most consistent and reliable fullbacks in the world.

Even at 32, Kearney’s earning power would still be strong and a lucrative salary in the Top 14 or indeed further afield in emerging markets such as Japan may be enough to entice him abroad should he so choose to leave Leinster after 14 years. 

The departure of Schmidt as Ireland head coach post-Japan may also be another reason for Kearney to pursue a new challenge in the winter of a decorated career, with the start of a new World Cup cycle, as well as the Andy Farrell tenure, certain to be a natural juncture for players to consider their international future. 

Whether Kearney is part of that new regime remains to be seen, but he believes the handover from Schmidt to Andy Farrell will be seamless.

Rob Kearney breaks Dan Sheridan / INPHO The 32-year-old has won 87 international caps. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It won’t have any impact,” he says. “I think the fact he hasn’t taken up another coaching role, if anything when it comes to the World Cup, not that guys don’t try their very hardest, but when they know the coach is leaving the game for the foreseeable future, they really want to dig in and give every little bit.

“Whereas, if he was going to another team your mindset might just change ever so slightly.

“I think it’s a natural progression for Andy wasn’t it? They’ve [IRFU] done their business pretty well, they obviously had this contingency plan in the background for the last six months or so. Everything just seems very seamless.”

On Farrell, who will step up from his role as defence coach, Kearney said the Englishman has had a big influence not only on the team, but his own game in the number 15 jersey. 

“He changed our system dramatically when he first came in,” Kearney explains.

“It’s a difficult role to play. I rely on my wingers heavily in that system whereas here [at Leinster] we’re a little bit different, backfield-wise. The great thing about him is he’s just very black and white.

We’ve got a really good defensive day every Tuesday in the week. We’ve got a really good plan and he makes it very simple in terms of what he expects from guys and Joe to an extent too.

“I always find those are the best coaches to play for when you know exactly what they want.”

There has been much speculation over whether Farrell will ask current Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster to join the Ireland coaching staff having previously worked together with England.

“Yeah, it’s a tough one,” Kearney added, when asked if he’d like to see him move into the national set-up. “I’ve got two hats on; a green one and a blue one.

“I think Stuart is an integral part of the province here. The team, how we play and the success we’ve had over the last couple of years. So, if he was to leave it would be a pretty big void to try and fill.

Rob Kearney Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Kearney at Leinster training in Donnybrook on Monday. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“There hasn’t been a huge amount of talk about it [between players]. Certainly, from players, it is a year away and so much can change within a year. But Stuart is a huge part of the club.”

In the short term, Kearney is due to return to the Leinster team for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup pool clash against Bath at the Rec having not featured for the province since the Pro14 win over Benetton back in October.

After the defeat in Toulouse in round two, Leo Cullen’s side are bidding to regain control of the pool against the Premiership side, who they then welcome to the Aviva Stadium a week on Saturday.

Leinster will come up against their former backs coach, Girvan Dempsey, who is now part of Todd Blackadder’s Bath coaching staff, and an ex-team-mate Kearney knows very well.

“I’ve spoken before about Girvan and the influence that he had on me,” he said.

“He was the one person who definitely took me under his wing starting off. I came in on the wing a little bit but I always knew that I wanted to be a fullback.

“I always think that it was a very selfless act from him to take the new young up and coming kid at the time. I texted him a good bit during November and we still have a very good relationship.”

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