Thursday 26 April 2018

Kearney insists Racing have everything to prove

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Common consensus would dictate that the rise of Toulon and Racing Metro to Heineken Cup rugby will make things difficult for the more established clubs.

But Rob Kearney believes the debutants need to prove themselves at European elite level before he and Leinster start trembling in their boots.

Racing kick off their European adventure at the RDS this Saturday with a team packed with international-level players. But Leinster, of all teams, know how hard it is to compete at the very top in the Heineken Cup and Kearney says it's wise to wait and see how they get on.

"I think we need to see those teams competing more in the Heineken Cup before we can make a point like that," the Louthman said.

"Toulouse are obviously the superpower of the last few years but they don't spend huge money, they just have quality French players.

"So it does make (Racing) a harder team to play against, a hard team to beat, because they do have a bit more firepower than some bigger names, but at the end of the day it's 15 on 15.

"It's a really tough group and we've said that from the start, we need to win our home games and make life easier for ourselves and make sure we get our bonuses away."

Kearney may have allowed himself a small sigh of relief when long-term rival for the No 15 jersey Girvan Dempsey hung up his boots at the end of last season.

But it was soon followed by Luke Fitzgerald's assertion that he wants to get back into the position he played as a younger man, ramping up the competition for places behind the three-quarters.

As the man in situ at provincial and national level, Kearney welcomes the competition, although he says he has yet to fully find his feet this year amongst the new rules and player-welfare selection choices.

"You've always got players going for each other's positions," he said. "It's not just this year, it's every year. But you'd like to think that people are looking for your position and subsequently it creates that competition and rivalry and it's only going to spur you on and raise your game.

"It takes three, four, five games to get back into it, but the good thing about it is that it just takes one little spark to kick things off again.

"I think the thing about the new rules is there's a couple of key positions on the field where it takes a little longer to adapt and I think full-back is one of those positions.

"I certainly found in the last few games that taking the ball on from deeper is not as punishing as last year was because the referee didn't really favour the attacking player.

"If you did get caught on the counter and you got turned over, it could be costly whereas this year they're starting to favour the attacker a little bit more and you can retain that ball. So it does making countering more free and more of a viable option than a kicking duel."

Irish Independent

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