Thursday 22 February 2018

Kearney bending over backwards in battle to regain full fitness

Full-back continues rehab on strained hamstring as Roberts issues warning over oppressive Hong Kong heat

Conor George

Conor George

ROB KEARNEY continued to train on his own during the Captain's Run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground in a scorching Hong Kong.

The Ireland and Leinster full-back hasn't been able to take part in a full training session since complaining of a tightness during the warm-up to Leinster's Pro12 final against Ulster last weekend.

While the squad for today's game gently went through some basic moves on the pitch, Kearney worked solely on stretching and strengthening his hamstring with a series of exercises behind one of the goals.

This involved him using an elastic band while performing a series of tailored 'crab crawls' to get the flexibility back.

Even though Kearney  didn't take part in a very strenuous workout, the heat was so oppressive that he was only seconds into his session when he was bathed in perspiration.

In fact, the Hong Kong sun was so strong that as soon as you left an air-conditioned environment the perspiration flowed.

Today's game kicks off at 7.30 local time (12.30 in Ireland) but it is expected that the temperature will be in the high 20s even at that time of the evening – meaning players' dehydration is a real concern.

During every training session over the past week, the Lions players have been guzzling through close to 300 bottles of 500 millilitres of water and have been using ice-vests during and after sessions in order to cool down.

These vests contain a special gel that immediately begins to cool the wearer down.

Today's game will – with IRB sanction – feature pre-determined water time-outs in either half for the teams.

The importance of these breaks was emphasised by Wales centre Jamie Roberts, who qualified as a doctor two months ago.

"It is dangerous to become dehydrated and/or to have an electrolyte imbalance in the body, so it is important to have access to as much fluids as possible," explained Dr Roberts.

The Wales international, who was one of the star performers four years ago, will leave the medical staff to look after that aspect of things as he focuses on retaining the starting Test jersey he wore with such distinction on the tour to South Africa.

"I played some of the best rugby of my career on the tour in 2009," said Roberts. "But that year was still one of 'what ifs?' for me.

"I lost a Heineken Cup semi-final on a shoot-out, we lost the (Six Nations) championship and Grand Slam to Ireland and then we lost the Test series to South Africa.

"The memory of the dressing-room after that second Test is burnt in my mind."

It is anticipated Kearney will step up his preparations in the coming days as all members of the 37-man squad are expected to start at least one of the opening three matches.

The Lions play Western Force in Perth on Wednesday (11.0 Irish time) and then face the Queensland Reds in Brisbane next Saturday, June 8. Brian O'Driscoll, Tommy Bowe and Rory Best are expected to feature in Perth, with Kearney and Sean O'Brien not likely to be pressed into action until the game in Brisbane.

Irish Independent

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