Thursday 22 August 2019

Kearney: Aki furore brought Ireland closer together


Bundee Aki of Ireland takes a selfie with his daughter Adrianna, age 6
Bundee Aki of Ireland takes a selfie with his daughter Adrianna, age 6
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Rob Kearney says the furore surrounding Bundee Aki's Ireland debut last week brought Joe Schmidt's squad closer together.

As a player who qualified to play for the country by dint of the three-year residency rule, Aki found himself at the centre of a debate over the laws in the build-up to Saturday's record win over South Africa.

The squad interpreted the coverage as an attack on one of their own and rallied around the New Zealand-born centre whose performances for Connacht left no one in any doubt about his ability to perform at international level.

And Kearney believes the perceived negativity forged a greater sense of team spirit that fed into an excellent performance in the 38-3 win.

"When you are going out to represent your country in big games, you need a massive level of togetherness," the experienced full-back said.

"Brotherhood is a word you hear a huge amount of times between players. When you go out to battle like that it is something that you do need.

Rob Kearney. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Rob Kearney. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"We would have recognised over the last few weeks that Bundee was taking a little bit of stick for nothing that he's done.

"He has just wanted to come here and play for Ireland and it probably does bring you together a little bit more.

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"Guys understand that maybe he needed a little bit more love over the last week or two than he had been used to.

"You're getting a huge amount of column space and you're on the front page of national newspapers the morning of the game, you do a feel a bit more pressure, and I'm sure he did. That's why it was all the more pleasing to see him have such a good game."

Joe Schmidt will be without John Ryan, Tommy O'Donnell, Dan Leavy and Keith Earls for Saturday's clash with Fiji.

All four have been released to their provinces, with Jordi Murphy and Sean Reidy called up.

Meanwhile, Munster have confirmed that Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have departed for South Africa.

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