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Rob rallies men in green

IRELAND full-back Rob Kearney has spoken to Brian O'Driscoll about the pending decision on whether to play on or give up the game.

"For someone like Brian, there is a huge balance there of going out on a high and, as well, being comfortable going out," said Kearney.

"The worst thing for him would be to retire and then be regretful of it, regardless of how much of a high you got out on. It is about striking that balance between the two.

"I think his physical state will tell him a huge amount as well. He's always said he wants to just get through the Six Nations, try and enjoy it, play well and then start making some decisions probably over the next month or two.

"From my perspective – and I've said this to him – there's still quite a bit left in the tank for him. He is one of those great players that bring so much to the game and so much to the team as well.

"When Brian is there, it is a different team," said Kearney, as the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia begins to loom large on the horizon.

The presence of Lions coach Warren Gatland at a training session and in team meetings: "It is hard not to see the coach of the Lions over in the sideline watching training.

"It upped the concentration by a few percent. I don't think that's a bad reflection on us all. It is a huge thing. It really sharpens the mind.

"When we won the Grand Slam four years ago, there were 15 Irish guys on it. Generally, the team who wins the championship have the best representation.

"That is something that the players have all bought into. When the team does well, that is when you have the most representation on the Lions.

"You are conscious of it. It is always there at the back of your mind. It is a difficult thing not to think about. Guys that are telling you they are not thinking about it are probably telling you 'fibs' too."

Kearney is adamant "we need to prove that we're not a 40-minute team" at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

The Louthman has taken note of the fact that Ireland have not scored in the second half against Scotland or France, faded away after an O'Driscoll 44th-minute try in Wales and did the same in the last quarter against England.



It coloured his view of Ireland's draw with France: "Positives – we weren't beaten. Negatives – we had a poor second 40 minutes. It is a trend that has come through throughout the campaign.

"I don't think our mindset as a team is changing. It is not as if we are getting very defensive and we are losing that attacking mindset.

"But, we do need a big second 40 minutes this weekend, regardless of what the score is. It is a huge pattern. That's why we do need a big second 40.

"It is not something we have spoken a huge amount about but everyone knows it. It is just important that when we do take the break at half-time, we take to the field still looking to play rugby, try to get scores because it is frustrating.

"It is no secret that we are thin on the ground injury wise. We need to be very careful that we don't get sucked into using that as an excuse. Once we start doing that we are already on the back foot."

The high and lows of the game can take the management and players to great heights and sorry lows. Kearney has seen enough to know the truth lies somewhere in between.

"After the Welsh game, we were all high and mighty. Everyone was playing brilliantly and we are Grand Slam contenders. Last week, if we lost, we were in the pot for the spoon. Once we're improving and learning from the mistakes we made the week before, we have to be happy the we are not going backwards like we did in that Scottish game."