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Team always comes first


Leinster's Rob Kearney during squad training. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Rob Kearney during squad training. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Rob Kearney during squad training. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

LEINSTER full-back Rob Kearney insists "it is in the nature of being a competitor" to use what you can, how you can to get the best out of individuals and the team.

The slow drip-feed of information from Munster suggests that there will be players there – Simon Zebo is the most obvious example – who will be all out to show Ireland coach Joe Schmidt the errors of his ways.

Leinster had eight starters and seven reserves on duty for Ireland at Stade de France while Munster had captain Paul O'Connell, scrum-half Conor Murray and flanker Peter O'Mahony.

"I think if you don't use something like that to fire you up and use it to your advantage, there is something a little bit wrong with you. I have no doubt they will use that," said Kearney.

Ireland's incumbent was cleverly trying to turn the argument on its head by demanding his clubmates show Munster why there were 15 Leinster men in Paris.

"There's no doubt that we've things to prove as well, you know, that there was such a strong Leinster contingent there. We have to show why! It is a double-edged sword."

The very dynamics of the professional game puts a heavy emphasis on getting an edge wherever you can find it and perceived national slights are always a good feeding ground for the provinces.

"I wouldn't say we have to work on it. Munster are no different. When you are one of the better teams out there, everyone wants to come and take a scalp off you.


"You do have to work harder and you do have to be on your game more, constantly making sure that there's never any sort of arrogance or getting head of yourself creeping in.

"That's something we've had to battle with for years. And Munster are no different."

The sheer volume of internationals at Leinster means, presuming Rob Kearney will be at full-back, the wing wizards will have to be two from Dave Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald and Zane Kirchner.

"It's crazy. The back row is the same too," he pointed out.

"What do you say to that? There's massive competition there. Someone of genuine international class is going to miss out on the provincial team. That is going to be tough to take for someone."

Ireland's Jamie Heaslip will wear the number eight jersey, leaving Jordi Murphy, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan to scrap over the other two shirts there.

"Again, it has to come back to the overall group and the strength of the whole group and its togetherness and putting the team before yourself."

The perception of Munster as an Edinburgh-type sideline-to-sideline machine waiting for holes to appear is not quite right. They do put boot-to-ball fairly often.

And Kearney can see the benefit in that too. "You liked being kicked the ball because it means you get the ball," he said.

"I would say Munster kick a fair amount. If you shut the gates as a full-back on them too early, they do fill that space pretty quickly. So I'll have to adjust my game a little bit, to shut the gate a little bit later.

"That pendulum is going to have to work a fraction harder. They have Casey (Laulala), who has developed a bit of a kicking game and you've Zeebs (Simon Zebo) there too with a long left foot."

In addition, there are points for the taking and there is a big game to follow this one: "I think probably more importantly there are 80 minutes before a Heineken Cup quarter-final next week.

"That's really there in our minds and we really need a strong performance this week to carry us into the Toulon game. I think pressure will be up a fraction because we need to perform, we don't have too much time.

"There are a lot of changes coming back in, a lot of guys back into the new system.

"It may be difficult, I'm just hoping that we can hit the ground running pretty quickly."