We need to step up our performance to meet expectations, says Rob Kearney
FULL-back Rob Kearney believes Ireland need to start stepping up the quality of rugby after last year’s disappointments.
The Leinster full-back says: "We've got to make sure we produce the brand of rugby that people expect from this team, and that we start to fulfil our potential more, unlike the last year.
"There's a new feel to this squad now, and we can aim to move forward with that. "But we also need to hang onto a bit of the hurt from last year's Six Nations."
He admits frustration at the polarity between half-back Eoin Reddan suggesting the autumn is a stepping stone to the Six Nations - and centre Gordon D'Arcy targeting a three-win clean sweep.
Kearney could share the Aviva Stadium pitch with brother Dave tomorrow against Samoa, with his uncapped sibling named as a replacement.
The 27-year-old understands why some of his peers ease the pressure and others crank it up.
But he rates new head coach Schmidt's team ultimately somewhere between the two.
Kearney said: "I think maybe people are getting mixed messages from players a little bit.
"Just because Eoin Reddan makes a statement like 'we're building towards next year', it in no way means we expect to lose these three games.
"Going and saying that all three are a must-win, that might be a little bit off the mark too, it's somewhere in between.
"It's very much about performances in these few weeks, but also making sure we can get some wins too.
Leinster prop Jack McGrath will make his debut against Samoa tomorrow, with Kearney heaping praise upon his 24-year-old club mate.
Pleased with progress under the new man at the helm, Kearney continued: "It'll be daunting in some respects but it's a hugely exciting time for Jack too, he's played extremely well over the last few months.
"It's a great occasion for him. He's been one of Leinster's best players, and if he can just continue that form into this week then I'm sure he'll come out on top.
"But I think the other guys have a responsibility to drag him along and make sure he enjoys this day for the right reasons.
"I think we're in a pretty strong position, we haven't had very much time together, but when you take that into consideration, the new style we're going to try to play, we're in a pretty strong position."