Friday 17 November 2017

Kearney brothers can spell double trouble for Glasgow

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IT was a case of good news and bad at Leinster's pre-match press conference yesterday.

The good? Jonathan Sexton and Gordon D'Arcy are fit to start against Glasgow tomorrow.

The bad? Luke Fitzgerald and Richardt Strauss are not.

According to the club's briefings, the duo were "rested" last week, but there was evidently more to it than that and the Ireland winger -- who has been restored to full form since his World Cup exclusion -- is a big loss for the province at Firhill tomorrow.

It wasn't public knowledge, but the former Blackrock prodigy tweaked his gluteal muscle in the warm-up against Connacht and, just as that was healing, suffered from a crick in his neck.

South African Strauss has been nursing a facial injury and has been given a further week to recover.

Of course, Fitzgerald's difficulty has handed a golden opportunity to one of Leinster's golden boys as Dave Kearney finally joins his big brother on the big stage.

That the 22-year-old gets the nod ahead of Fionn Carr and Andrew Conway is testament to his performances when the World Cup was in full swing and although he has only scored two tries in his 11 appearances this season, the Clongowes product has improved with his power, work rate and defensive awareness.

Strauss's absence is not the blow it might have been last year, thanks to Sean Cronin's impressive start to his Leinster career, and Clontarf stalwart Aaron Dundon continues his unheralded rise to take a place on the bench.

For Kearney, this is another rung on the ladder. The Cooley native has worn the blue 28 times and been an unused substitute in Europe's premier competition, but this is his first proper involvement.

And, pertinently given the current debate that rages around the non-Irish players and their impact on the development of home-grown talent, Kearney puts his improvement this season down to his increased opportunities and the chance to play games.

"It is another step to take. Having a chance to play in the Heineken Cup is pretty massive for me. I am really looking forward to it," he said.

"The key thing is getting game time. While the Irish internationals are away at the World Cup or a November series, it is a really important time for guys like me to develop.

"Anytime you get an opportunity to play, it is where you develop most.

"Development is going to come. It is not something you force."

When he was first introduced to the press, Kearney was forced to field countless questions about his big brother Rob.

It is a mark of how far he has come, that the focus has now switched to him. He's becoming his own man and now they are helping each other out.

"His experience really helps me," admitted Kearney.

"He goes through my games and lets me know what things he thinks I should work on and what things I am doing well.

"It is great having him there. If there's a couple of things he's not doing that well, I'll try and tell him too."

Irish Independent

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