Rob Kearney reveals in detail how his hamstring problems are stemming from his back
Published 12/04/2016 | 02:30
As seasons go, up to now this has been one to forget for Rob Kearney but as he returns from his latest setback, he does so with plenty still left to play for.
The full-back has struggled with a niggling hamstring injury and has only managed to play back-to-back games three times since Ireland crashed out of the World Cup.
Simon Zebo has made a strong case to keep hold of the No 15 jersey when Ireland play the first of their three Tests in South Africa on June 11 but an impressive finish to the season with Leinster would put Kearney right back in the frame.
Granted, the World Cup as well as the Six Nations meant that Kearney missed a large chunk of Leinster's season but in the mere six games that he has played for his club this season, he has lasted the full 80 minutes just three times.
Kearney turned 30 last month and as he gets set to return against Edinburgh on Friday night, he will do so with hope that his troublesome hamstring will last the pace but, as he revealed, the problem stems from his back.
"You get a bit of a bleed after it (hamstring tears). It's just a matter of how quickly it strains," Kearney explained.
"When you do it once, straight away you are at risk of doing it again. It's like a scab. If you don't let it heal, it can come back again.
"They are all in the same spot, so they're linked to my lower back in some shape or form. I had surgery on my lower back four years ago. It shaved away a little bit of a disc. It stops that pressure going on the nerve, the sciatica that runs right down through your leg.
"You get no warning on them. You get out on the pitch. You feel great. You start sprinting around. And then 'bang'. They come out of the blue."
Kearney admitted that he probably could have played a game three weeks ago but such was the rate at which the problem was recurring, he took the extra time to allow his hamstring to heal.
"If it's not right, you're wasting your time trying to force them," he insisted. "I was getting to that stage where it was becoming a little bit chronic. I had three or four in the space of two or three months.
"Once you do it once, straight away you are at a higher risk. The more times you do it, the more at risk you are of getting another one. I just had to bite the bullet, take four or five weeks off, just make sure I put myself in the best place possible to give this one time to recover. I just needed to be a little bit more sensible.
"It is tough and it's unbelievably frustrating but what can I do? I cannot in any way control it. So you just need to try and make sure that you're training as best as you can. A run of games would be very nice."
He will begin his search for that run of games against Edinburgh and with another two league games to come as well as a likely semi-final and a possible final, he has enough time to prove his fitness.
As well as Kearney's own personal goals from now until the end of May, Leinster's season also hinges on the next six weeks as they look to win back the Pro12 title and also finish as top seeds for next season's Champions Cup draw.
A fifth-place finish last year condemned Leinster to what Kearney describes as "the greatest group of death ever seen in European rugby" and they are desperate to avoid a repeat of that.
"You can get a bit of the luck of the draw in terms of which other clubs you get but meritocracy has become really important and you need to finish strongly in the league to make sure you enhance your chances in Europe."