| 8°C Dublin

Lion Kearney ready to roar

Close

Rob Kearney, Leinster, Ireland and Lions (L). Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Rob Kearney, Leinster, Ireland and Lions (L). Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Rob Kearney, Leinster, Ireland and Lions (L). Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

IRELAND'S Rob Kearney says he "would find it very hard to deal with not making the Lions' Test team, especially having been on it in South Africa".

The Louthman is one of the more decorated players in the game. The individual and collective rewards are there. So, too, is the competitive instinct of a winner.

"If something doesn't go your way, you've got to suck it up and leave it behind you once you close your bedroom door to do what's best for the team."

However, it is clear Kearney has no intention of playing second best to anyone in Australia. Self-belief is a pre-requisite for international rugby.

Leinster's last man back will come face-to-face in the Pro12 League semi-final tomorrow night with one of the two men standing in his path to become a two-tour Lions Test starter.

Glasgow Warrior Stuart Hogg has come from close to nowhere in the last two seasons, bypassing England's Ben Foden, Mike Brown and Alex Goode to make the three-man full-back roster.

"He has definitely got a spark about him and that's because he's just rapid quick. He's got good agility. You don't really know what he's going to do next," said Kearney.

"People really embrace that. The watching public. The man, woman or kid who buy their tickets love seeing players like that. That is why there is this buzz surrounding him."

It is fair to suggest that Kearney and Wales' Leigh Halfpenny are different to Hogg. They too can be match winners in their own right.

For all of Hogg's virtues, it is difficult to see Warren Gatland straying too far away from his Wales template while orchestrating the Lions' physical assault on Australia.

That is to kick a huge amount of ball, chase really hard and put the opposition under pressure.

When they do recover the ball in the right area, they come straight and hard.

It is a simple plan suitable for a group of disparate players coming together in a squeezed timeframe for a squad loaded with six Leinster and Leicester Tigers men and five from the Ospreys.

Selection

The Welsh-stacked coaching and playing staff mean the odds could side with one of their own in a 50-50 selection call.

What can Kearney do about that? "You've got to do your best to make it a 51-49 decision in your favour," he said.

It could come down to every man's first game.

"Opportunities will be thin on the ground. It is when all preconceptions are either cemented or demolished," added Kearney. "You've got to go out there knowing, once you are on that plane, anything can happen.

"If you have one big game, you are straight into top form. That is the attitude you have to take out there.

"I keep saying the most important thing for me is that I am not forcing things. That is when you take the ball back, get turned over and it's three points in the opposite direction.

"You've got to be really clear in your thinking and always go with the high percentages first. They are the things the public don't particularly like.

"But that is what you will always get selected for. That is what coaches want in players there because you can be very exposed at full-back.

"Your mistakes become magnified. That is why it is probably the one position on the field where solidity and error-free has to come before everything else."

Form

The 2012 European Player of the Year has not yet hit top form this season. He has been getting there slowly, but surely.

"There are times in a season when it takes a little longer to click. It is no reflection on me or how I'm training or how the team is going.

"Sometimes you just can't put into words why things aren't exactly clicking for you. The Six Nations was a difficult time.

"We were on the back foot for many of the games and the conditions were not conducive to constructive play," he reflected.

There have been recent signs, especially in his best performance since the injury against the Ospreys last Friday, that he is timing his run into form perfectly.


Privacy