Rob Kearney: Win over Toulon can 'give people a reason to be excited about Leinster again'

The fullback is realistic about Leinster’s slim chance of qualifying from Pool 5.


FOR THE MOST part, Leinster players and officials were sticking to the party line today, refusing to accept defeat in their quest to qualify from the Champions Cup pool stage until simple  mathematics overruled them.

Rugby is easy on paper. And a simple calculation gives Leinster a possible final tally of 16 points if they were to take bonus point wins at home to Toulon and Bath… and then away to Wasps too.

Slight problem: though Saracens sneaked into the knockout stage with 17 points last season, in the last 10 Heineken Cup years only two teams made it to the quarter-finals having accrued fewer than 20 points — Northampton 2010 and Leicester 2005, with the latter going on to beat Leinster in the last eight — and both of them had 19.

Rob Kearney Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Mercifully for the seasonal sanity of all of us, Rob Kearney cracked the thin veneer of fanciful belief with a slight tap of realism.

“Mathematically, we’re not out just yet. Probably as good as,” accepts the Ireland fullback, “but this week is just about our own performance.

“We’re at home in the Aviva with 45,000 people. It’s really important that we get a win to give people a reason to be excited about this Leinster team again.”

A win was the key word for Kearney. When Irish teams are on a roll they tend to accentuate the importance of a performance over the result. Without a win in Europe since the narrow quarter-final win over Bath in April, a win is a much more precious commodity.

“We’ve lost three on the bounce in Europe now, something I’ve never done.”

It’s more important that we get a win than a performance this week for many, many different reasons.”

He adds: “A win this week would do great things for the club, for the team. The chances are a win and performance would go hand in hand, it’s unlikely you’re going to beat Toulon while playing poorly.

“So it may be something that could catapult a remainder of the season for what’ll be a huge focus on the league and, more than likely, out of Europe.”

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Before they head to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (17.15), Leinster also expect to have much more clarity on the ailment keeping Sean O’Brien out of the game.

Sean O'Brien Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The flanker has been held out of contact training since being diagnosed with vestibular impairment – an inner ear issue – after the Champions Cup loss to Wasps a month ago. However, Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty issued a short, but positive update on the flanker today.

“He’s seeing someone (a second trip to a specialist) on Thursday, he’s close,” Fogarty said, later adding the caveat that the coaching staff had been ‘told he’s close’.

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Sean Farrell

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