Saturday 24 March 2018

Kearney banks on superior fitness levels to stop Ospreys spoiling the party

Rob Kearney: No time for whinging
Rob Kearney: No time for whinging
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Rob Kearney was still in his mud-stained kit as he came into the sparse media room below the Stade Pierre-Antoine stand, but his mind had already drifted to Friday and the Ospreys.

At some point, Leinster will be able to reflect on yesterday's win in Castres with some satisfaction but there is no time for that now.

Instead, they must rest and recuperate ahead of their final pool match -- one they must win to secure a quarter-final berth as pool winners.

As the lowest ranked leaders after five games, Leinster need a lot to go their way if they are to have a chance of a home quarter-final, so their task is a simple one -- beat the Ospreys and win the pool.

The problem is that their opponents love nothing more than turning up in Dublin and spoiling the party. They did it in the 2010 and 2012 Pro12 finals and, even though they have nothing to play for after yesterday's defeat to Northampton, will relish the idea of putting Leinster out.

"It's going to take it out of us but we can't get sucked in to whinging about a five-day turnaround," Kearney said. "We have got to go and attack them.

"Thankfully Northampton didn't get the bonus point, but they did get a big win. There is still a lot for us to do on Friday."

Reminded of the Ospreys' propensity for spoiling the mood in Ballsbridge, Kearney countered that at least Leinster know what to expect.

"History tells us that they have done that and they will continue to do that, so we know exactly what to expect because they are the one team around that loves the RDS," he said.

"We just need to get our head in the game really quickly because five days isn't a lot of time. We'll be sore until Tuesday, we're not going to be on the pitch much, it will all be about recovery."

One thing that should help Leinster in their turnaround is the fitness they displayed in an epic battle with Castres yesterday as they outlasted the impressive French champions.

"Leinster, always through the years and this year, we're not the biggest team, we're not the strongest team in Europe but we'll always back our fitness and intensity to beat big teams, especially the French," Kearney said. "That's what we bank on at times."

The other thing they've banked is their experience and they showed that know-how in spades as they clawed their way back into a game that looked to be slipping away from them early on.

"It's of huge importance," Kearney said of the win. "You know, 14 points down after a poor start -- that's when winning big trophies as a team stands to you. You have a lot of faith and confidence that you will get opportunities to get back into it.

"We showed a huge amount of character and probably the best phases of play we showed was in the period just before half-time.

"We built a lot of phases and you could see that they were tiring and wanted to get to half-time. We saw that and we pounced on that a little bit too. It was a bit of a turning point for us, to get that score before the half."

The return of Cian Healy will help, with the Ireland loosehead parachuted on to the bench yesterday morning after his rapid recovery from an ankle injury.

He made a difference too, as did Shane Jennings, as the Pro12 champions' strength in depth shone through. With rotation in the offing, Leinster know that they have strength in depth to call on.

"They made a big impact, we have huge depth there in the squad now and that's important," Kearney added.

"Gone are the days where you could play 80 minutes with just 15 guys, they did their bit when they came on."

Irish Independent

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