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Warrior's way for Rob

THESE last few weeks have been all about hitting the ground running. Murrayfield. Aviva Stadium. Stade de la Mosson.

All challenging hunting grounds in their own right and the opponents - Edinburgh, Munster and Montpellier respectively - each providing their own unique and combative challenges.

There has been no soft landing for Rob Kearney since his return from World Cup duties in New Zealand and you sense, listening to him, that this is exactly where he wants to be.

It is interesting to note that it is over 58 weeks since Kearney last crossed the whitewash in the RDS, in the province's opening round Heineken Cup victory over Racing Métro 92.

Kearney knows this and his excitement about Sunday's lunchtime clash with Glasgow Warriors in the RDS (KO: 12.45pm) is palpable.



Bloody

"It (the 16-16 draw against Montpellier last weekend) was probably a game we should have won but as it turned out we were bloody lucky to get the two points," the 25-year-old admits with a mixed sense of contentedness.

"On reflection, it was one of the toughest and most physical Leinster games that I have ever played in.

"The pace was rapid and the hits were huge but it was a great game to be a part of and this Sunday is all about building on the draw and improving across the board.

"But I can't wait to play in the RDS again this Sunday. The atmosphere on Heineken Cup weeks is huge and there's something special about playing in front of your home support.

"The RDS is a special place to play and it should be a really competitive game."

It's just under six years since he made his Heineken Cup debut for the province and when he reflects on the time past he sees a tournament which has grown significantly, even in that relatively short timespan.

"In my first campaign back in 2005/06 it was all so new to me and to be honest I was just kind of thrown in at the deep end. I was lucky in that regard because there were a lot of experienced heads around me which freed things up to just go out and express myself.

"Denis (Hickie) was injured and so after playing just a handful of games I was in for my first European start against Bath in the RDS. If you look at the profile of the competition nowadays the levels of media coverage and scrutiny are far higher."

Kearney knows that Glasgow Warriors' tails are up, especially when you ally their recent good run of form in both competitions to the fact that they have already plundered the RDS earlier in the campaign.

"Whenever you come across sides from your domestic league the game can become a bit like a game of chess and the games are usually quite tight," says Kearney. "In recent years we've played sides like Edinburgh and the Scarlets so you have an idea what to expect. There's no fear of playing against each other but there's huge respect because we know one another so well.

"From my own point of view I still feel quite fresh into the set-up. I only had a handful of games under my belt under Joe (Schmidt) before getting injured last year and so I'm getting used to the new systems.

"As a group we haven't had a huge amount of time together, but we're becoming more familiar with one another week by week."

The long build-up for the players offers its own challenges, the Dundalk man says, with the focus on the latter half of the week switched to getting the body clock right for the earlier kick off.

"The week is broken up with two separate days off and after the rigours of playing in France it was good to have the extra day to recover.

"A Sunday lunchtime kick off is a weird one to get your head around," he admits. "You get up earlier in the week so there isn't that big a switch on matchday and you alter the timing of your meals accordingly.

"It was the same last year when we played Racing Métro 92, a game which I personally felt was one of our best all-round performances of the entire campaign.

"Personally, I like playing around lunchtime when it's nice and bright out. With a crisp ball and -- hopefully -- good conditions it can help make for a better game."



hopes

And the message from Kearney regarding this weekend? "They have a lot of international experience through the likes of Chris Cusiter and Rob Dewey, while Graeme Morrison is a real threat in midfield.

"Ali Kellock leads the team well up front and Richie Gray is bang in form.

"When the game kicked off in Montpellier last Saturday we became contenders again, like all of the other 23 teams, and we're all looking to win the Cup.

"We're approaching each game week by week and Glasgow will pose a huge challenge.

"They will travel here with high hopes, I'm sure, given their victory over us a few months back in the PRO12 so we will focus on ensuring that our performance is right and that we go up another level from last weekend."

Fresh start and forward thinking.


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