Sunday 4 December 2016

Kearney remaining positive ahead of 'must-win' derby

Published 24/04/2015 | 02:30

Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong receives the Leinster Player of the Month award for February / March
Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong receives the Leinster Player of the Month award for February / March

Feeling sorry for themselves has not been an option for Leinster this week, despite their European exit.

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With an interpro in Belfast tonight, there has been no time to dwell on the pain of the Toulon defeat.

That is certainly the attitude that Rob Kearney has adopted and he isn't underestimating the importance of this evening's game.

Leinster's latest Pro12 defeat against the Dragons a fortnight ago was their seventh of a hugely underwhelming league campaign but Kearney is eager to keep alive his side's slim hopes of reaching the play-offs.

"It is must-win. If we lose, we're out," the full-back admitted.

"Even a little bit more than last week, this is a big character test for us. We've proved we can front up and turn up on the big day. We've got to do it again.

"It's going to be a savage, tough game. Ideally, you might have another of the lesser teams at home.

"But, it is just the way the fixtures have fallen. There is no more extra incentive because it is Ulster in Belfast."

Such was the nature of last weekend's slog in Marseille, Kearney maintained that it was far less taxing on the backs than it was on the pack, who got through a mountain of work.

Having also been rested for the last league game against the Dragons, Kearney will be hoping that his side can pick up the win that would give them a fighting chance of defending the title that they have won for the last two years.

"I know the backs didn't find it overly tough. That was the nature of the game. The forwards, presumably, found it a little bit tougher," he said.

"It's do or die this week, isn't it? Even if you don't think it, you always have that little bit more in the tank to give for these big ones.

"Five days later, it is a quick turnaround after 100 minutes - it's not ideal. But we can't control that. We'll be judged on results regardless of the five days that have gone before."

Tadhg Furlong was this week awarded Leinster Player of the Month for February/March for his promising displays during the disappointing Six Nations period.

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Given their poor run of results in that time-frame, Leinster are now playing catch up and Kearney knows that his side must win their remaining three games and hope that someone else does them a favour.

"There will be a twist of some sort over the next three weeks for the run-in, one of the five teams is going to slip up or something uncharacteristic is going to happen," he said.

"Who it's going to be, I don't know, but all we can do is try to get the win this week and hope that whoever it is who slips up, it favours us.

"We didn't use a huge amount of our game-plan against Toulon.

"They (Ulster) are a similar-ish team. Some of the basis for the game-plan we wanted to play last week will be applicable again this week."

The Leinster supporters will certainly be hoping that Kearney's sentiments come to pass in Belfast this evening. If they don't, it's a long wait for next season.

Irish Independent

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