Kearney hungry to put All Blacks on back foot
Rob Kearney believes the memories of "a dark night" in New Plymouth last June will ordain an attacking mindset for Ireland in Saturday's international against the All Blacks.
That 66-28 mauling stands as the heaviest of this country's 22 defeats in 23 Test matches against New Zealand. Jamie Heaslip's red card and a subsequent sin-binning for Ronan O'Gara were all factors as Ireland found themselves a mortifying 38-7 behind by the mid-point.
Yet, the team eventually salvaged a semblance of pride from the statistic of having scored four tries against a normally impenetrable All Blacks defence.
Kearney reflects: "We actually learnt quite a bit from the summer tour, although that was a dark enough night against the All Blacks. The last 30 minutes, even with 14 men, we proved to ourselves that we could score tries and we could attack them.
"And it came from just really having a go at them. So, although we probably haven't seen a huge amount of our desire to attack over the last few weeks, it is there. It's something we're working on."
Having missed the Samoa game through injury, Kearney is hoping to be restored to the full-back position when Declan Kidney reveals his starting XV today.
He expresses the hope that Ireland can somehow take a leaf from Leinster's book now and click into positive gear after difficult early-season form. And the route to doing that may, he suspects, be right before their eyes on Saturday.
Describing the All Blacks' performance against Scotland last weekend as "awesome", Kearney reflects: "They just keep it simple, which is something that we could probably learn a little bit from.
"They just impose their game plan really well on the opposition, their skills are really good, they're getting quick ball and they're building phases -- all the things that we want to do that we probably haven't done enough of over the last couple of weeks."
Ireland's work at the breakdown will, Kearney believes, be fundamental to their hopes of making history.
"From what I've seen, they're turning quite a few teams over in those wide channels. Breakdown work is something that we've really focused on this week because we know if you're not strong and physical enough in that area, you get turned over," he says.
"And we all know that that's where South Africa got their scores from. From turnovers.
"When we practise our tackling, it's always about tagging the ball, getting onto the ball -- which eliminates the off-load. It'll be the same this week. I suppose the fact that they (New Zealand) are probably better off-loaders than other opponents we've played against means we've got to work on that a little harder.
"But that's the basis of our game. When they get off-loads, that's when they get momentum and score tries. We've spoken about that needing to be our biggest focus this week."
Asked if the psychological hurdle presented the biggest obstacle to a first Irish victory against New Zealand, Kearney observes: "That's a good question. It's not something we sit around over dinner and say, 'Jesus, we have never beaten the All Blacks! What are we going to do?'.
"I can only speak for myself, but it's always been one of my personal goals to be on the first Ireland team to beat the All Blacks. And maybe this is the perfect chance for us, when we're being written off a bit."