Sunday 22 October 2017

Rob Kearney: Loss was a blow but this week all about first Test

Rob Kearney tackles Brumbles' Matt Toomua during yesterday's game in Canberra
Rob Kearney tackles Brumbles' Matt Toomua during yesterday's game in Canberra

Rob Kearney

Lions Diary: ALL 42 members of the squad will gather at the team base in Brisbane today and learn our individual fates. Then it is about focusing on the collective.

Test selection is the ultimate personal goal of being here and there will be a mixture of great joy and huge disappointment in that group. Twenty three guys' names will be called out and that will be it.

Then, it's all about beating Australia.

There are no private chats, no one is singled out. You learn your fate in the same way as every member of the squad. That's how it was four years ago and I don't expect that to change this time around.

I have no idea where I stand in terms of selection, but I realise that if I was more in the coach's plans, I would probably have started last weekend. That would have given them a chance to look at more combinations in the back three, but they chose to go with different options.

The only thing I can do now is keep trying to get game time under my belt and try to impress.

This is part and parcel of touring. It is something that you buy into when you go on a Lions tour that you have to leave your personal disappointment at the door.

There will be a lot of frustrated guys this week, but it is important that they front up and show support for the 23 players picked for the first Test.

Intensity

A harsh reality of this tour is that we're losing a guy a game to injury and the intensity is only going to go up over the course of the Test series. It will be tougher; there will be casualties and players will be given opportunities because of this.

Having overcome my hamstring injury and coming back into the team on Saturday, it has been massively important not to try and pull off the big plays. The way into the Test team is by fitting into it.

Last night against the Brumbies, my whole game was kicking and catching. That's what needed to be done given the conditions and the way that they were playing.

It is difficult to impose your game in a match like that, to do standout things. You have to put the team first all of the time and do what is best for the collective.

Losing the game was a bitter pill to swallow and we realise that the first half was where we lost it. We played much better after half-time, but we gave away some stupid penalties and the Brumbies were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over. During that first period, they outworked us and won the field position battle. It wasn't good enough.

We were the dominant team in the last 20 minutes and looked like we were going to win. We missed a few kicks at goal and there were opportunities for us to sneak the game. There was one pretty crucial turnover with six minutes to go that probably cost it.

Preparations for the game were not ideal. With injuries and call-ups, we had guys meeting up for a captain's run and introducing themselves to each other.

That is the world of sport and, given the attrition rate at these games, we were always going to leave ourselves a little bit open after having to call up so many players.

It was, perhaps, a little unexpected that so many new faces would come into a starting team, but that's something we had to deal with. It's the nature of touring sides. We had to get on with it and give our best on the day. Unfortunately we came up short and we left Canberra bitterly disappointed.

Amid the disappointment, though, there is a positive to take out of the last four days and that is my hamstring held up well through 100 minutes of rugby and I have been given the opportunity to play for the Lions again.

My tour could have been over through injury, so, to get games under my belt, has to be a good thing.

Despite my four weeks out, I was pretty confident going out against the Waratahs on Saturday night. The GPS data told me that I had been able to hit top speeds at training. I was 100pc and testing the hamstring well.

Positive

A win last night would have been great, it would have helped generate momentum and a feel-good buzz around the squad. The loss doesn't necessarily mean that the opposite will apply. This week is about Saturday; it was before the game and it will continue to be. We have to remember the bigger picture and the guys who were involved in the defeat last night need to front up, stay positive and ensure the focus isn't lost.

Behind the scenes there has been a lot of analysis going on with a view to Saturday's game. It is the reason we're here and it is important not to lose sight of the ultimate goal in the midst of defeat to the Brumbies.

Despite the fact Australia are yet to play this year, international teams play a more structured game than club sides, so you can get a good read on them. We know the Wallabies pretty well, we will do the analysis and pinpoint areas where we see weakness.

Four years ago I missed out on the starting team and worked my way into the Tests, so if things don't go my way this week, I can draw on that experience.

I realise that opportunities do come. I was lucky last time when one presented itself in South Africa and I was able to take advantage of that.

It is important to stay patient and know your time will come.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport