Saturday 20 January 2018

Kearney: I'm raring to go after injury nightmare

Rob Kearney during a press conference ahead of the game against NSW Waratahs tomorrow.
Rob Kearney during a press conference ahead of the game against NSW Waratahs tomorrow.
Rob Kearney watches the action from the stand

Andrew Baldock

Rob Kearney has thanked the British and Irish Lions coaching staff for sticking with him during his fightback from injury.

Ireland full-back Kearney is set to make a belated first tour appearance after being named among the replacements for tomorrow's appointment with New South Wales Waratahs.

But he might not even have set foot in Australia had his torn hamstring been a more serious problem than it transpired.

"If there is one time in four years not to pick up an injury or little niggle it is at the start of a Lions tour," Kearney said today.

"My timing couldn't have been any worse.

"I got a scan done in Hong Kong, and it could easily have gone either way. I could have been getting the first flight back to Dublin, or going off to Australia with the lads.

"It does give you a bit of perspective, especially when you then see a few boys heading home like Cian (Healy) and Gethin (Jenkins). Then you start to feel that luck is on your side.

"Then you get the chance this weekend to put the jersey on again, which is a fantastic feeling, albeit it might be a little bit late."

Kearney, 27, replaced an injured Lee Byrne during the first Lions Test in South Africa four years ago, and he went on to become a pivotal player for the tourists during that series.

This time around, he has significant ground to make up on the anticipated first Test Lions number 15 Leigh Halfpenny, but Kearney insists it will not be for the lack of trying.

"Leigh has done fantastically well," he added.

"He found himself in the (Wales) full-back position by chance a little bit. James Hook was there for a while, and after Lee Byrne they never really had an established full-back, and he stepped in there and made the position his own pretty quickly.

"I think he has gone from strength to strength. I would like to think I can push him.

"The timing hasn't been great, and his 11 from 11 (successful goal-kicks against Western Force) hasn't helped me, but there is a lot to happen on this tour.

"Not just in rugby, but in sport in general, things can happen in a matter of seconds and things can take a U-turn pretty quickly. It is firmly in my mind that there is still a challenge there.

"Being in that scanning machine was a low point because I had no idea what the results were going to read.

"I was pretty chuffed with the coaching staff when they gave me the chance to hang on for two weeks without any involvement. I took a bit of confidence from that.

"The lads think I've been on a three-week holiday. I can't give them too much stick back because I've just had to put my head down and take it."

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