Thursday 22 August 2019

Kearney: Leinster can learn from Munster failings against Saracens

Rob Kearney believes another Champions Cup for Leinster will boost Ireland’s World Cup campaign. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Rob Kearney believes another Champions Cup for Leinster will boost Ireland’s World Cup campaign. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

CIan Tracey

In their dismantling of Munster last weekend, Saracens gave an exhibition of how to play a referee and push the laws to the limits.

Jerome Garces appeared to have no control over what was going on at the breakdown, which became an absolute mess and the manner in which Sarries were able to manipulate the French official's interpretation has not gone unnoticed by Leinster.

There were several examples throughout the game that illustrated how lawless the breakdown has become, while other 'dark arts' areas were also exploited by Saracens.

Ultimately, all good teams are able to get away with it and a lot of Sarries' success has been based around being able to manage the situation that is in front of them.

Watched

Rob Kearney watched the semi-final in Coventry closely and he too could see that they played the game on the edge, which Munster could not live with.

The non-policing of the offside line has become a major issue in the game, with Kearney also pointing to the 'escorting' off the ball as players look to block runners attempting to challenge for high balls.

"It's a tricky one because David Strettle must have won four or five balls where he's not making an effort to catch the ball - he just wants to break it," Kearney says.

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"And if I'm going up to catch a ball and you're going up to break it, you're going to win it every time. So there's a huge element on winning those scraps, and Saracens won them all."

Despite beating Saracens last year, Leinster recognise that they are stronger this season. Kearney is adamant that Leinster will be able to handle them better than Munster did.

"I don't want to give too much away but Munster could certainly have dealt with it better.

"They didn't escort a huge amount. Escorting has become a real problem in the game at the moment.

"It's not being refereed. Regardless of how much discussions you have with referees and touch judges, when the ball is up in the air, all 50,000 people in the stadium will (look up).

"No-one knows what's going on (on the ground). So it is a bit of an issue and they (referees) don't really want to manage it too much at the moment.

"We were last to the party. We did a little bit in the second Test against Australia during the summer and it got a few dividends for us but we would consider ourselves a pretty disciplined team, so we'd always like to think that we'll come out the right end of the penalty count.

"We're reluctant to push the boundary a little bit, but with the scale of the escorting now, maybe we need to start."

As for the refereeing of the offside line, Kearney agrees that is becoming an increasingly major problem.

"It's a tricky one, refs have a tough job, they have so much to look at," the veteran full-back continues.

"The touch judge's primary role should be the offside line because that's exactly where they're standing and looking, every time.

"The game is constantly trying to evolve and become better equipped as to how we can deal with laws, but there's certainly more progress that needs to be made."

Several players from both teams were involved when England beat Ireland during the Six Nations in February, after which Joe Schmidt said his side were left "a bit broken".

Kearney believes that if Leinster retain their Champions Cup title by beating Sarries, it would have a positive ripple effect for Ireland heading into the World Cup.

"I think it would be a help," he maintains. "You want your provincial teams being as successful as possible.

"The more trophies for provincial teams, the better off it is for the national team. It would certainly help rather than hinder."

The 33-year-old's contract runs until after the World Cup and as he continues negotiations, he revealed that his future was almost finalised.

"It's moving, it's going in the right direction," he said.

"I'm not in a huge rush. I'm lucky that I've a few more options than other guys. But I'm not ready to go into that just yet.

"I feel good, pretty good mentally, pretty good physically. I don't see any reason why I shouldn't (play on)."

  • Rugby Players Ireland chairman, Rob Kearney was speaking at the announcement of four new additions to the executive committee.

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