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Kearney's Ireland epitaph is not written, he's shown why he will wear green again

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Rob Kearney evades a tackle during Leinster’s clash against the Cheetahs at the RDS. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Rob Kearney evades a tackle during Leinster’s clash against the Cheetahs at the RDS. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Rob Kearney evades a tackle during Leinster’s clash against the Cheetahs at the RDS. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The contrast between playing Six Nations rugby at this time of the year and playing for your club has always been borderline for international players. Most of the time the province is the platform for further recognition or to keep the pressure on rival players in the green jersey.

In recent years a run-out in the RDS been both rewarding and consoling for those missing out on international games.

And with Leinster's record this season, last Saturday was going to be one of those weekends, until Mother Nature ran its course.

Not many games are called off these days as the playing surfaces and technology have managed to mostly outsmart the elements. We have yet to see a surface that can counteract the wind, though.

Last Saturday was one of those very few times where players were not the envy of the fans and the attendees in the rain were not the envy of those at home watching on TV.

Hardships

Although, it is Rob Kearney, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath and Fergus McFadden who come to mind when you think of sport's hardships.

All of these internationals were given an unwanted three-week break while the Six Nations clicked into gear, then had to wait until this weather-beaten fixture to state their case for recognition again.

From the outset you could write off this game but looking closer into it the professionalism shown by these individuals was quite impressive. We are used to seeing comprehensive victories in this venue but this was a game that needed to be ground out, with a little bit of intelligence and experience mixed in.

One could go further and say this was exactly the type of game and performance the Irish management would like to see from the players - no glamour, just pure grit and determination.

Max Deegan, who is so close to the Irish set-up that the game was immaterial, kept up his high level of performance. The same can be said for the Rónan Kelleher.

For the likes of Rob Kearney, this would have been a tough outing.

There has been a lot of talk about Kearney's epitaph recently but I have no doubt he will wear the green jersey again. When this happens, is unknown - but it will happen.

The one-club and mainly one-position player will be needed again before he decides to hang up his boots and on Saturday we saw why.

Both himself and Ruddock rolled up the sleeves and knew from experience these are the days that stand to you most.

The journey back to the Irish set-up is in their hands away from the Six Nations spotlight.

Luke McGrath is in the same boat and when it comes to Fergus McFadden, well, he's the glue between young and old. He once again flourished in this testing environment.

At the other end of the Leinster agenda are the fringe players, Will Connors' man-of-the-match performance last weekend will be another attribute which will assist his future Irish hopes. Not being a day for flowing rugby, it was clear he was able to mix up his game with the less glamorous roles of the back-row.

Ciarán Frawley is the same. Ironically in Leinster, if you are a fringe player for club you can also be a fringe player for country.

This recognition gives the younger players a goal for their performances at this stage of the season. It would be obvious to expect Leinster to adapt to the testing conditions better than the South Africa-based Cheetahs but their leadership in this area was integral.

With all of the tries coming from close in work, Leinster had to be patient in accomplishing the bonus-point win.

Tonight will much different. This evening's kick-off away to Ospreys is the ideal appetiser for a weekend of international rugby.

Ospreys away on an international weekend would have been a tough and uninspiring outing in times gone by.

Expecting

The Welsh outfit have been overhauled by the arrival of director of rugby - and father to Rhys - Mike Ruddock. This was evident in their low-profile win against Ulster last weekend and they will be expecting more of the same this Friday.

In a world of science and stats what Mike Ruddock does best is bring the game back to its basics. Ruddock can motivate the Ospreys to play both beyond their ability and recent form.

This is a good time for sterner tests for Leinster and an away game in Wales away from the spotlight is exactly what is needed.

For players with international ambition putting in a big performance Friday will allow them to sit back and watch what unfolds in Twickenham.

With all of this in mind, for the Leinster squad once again motivation will not be a problem for the players. But yet there is a sense of vulnerability.

Ospreys are desperate. They have also very little international ambitions from their players or any interest in what's transpiring at international level this weekend.

They are also at home, with somewhat of a recovery happening.

This makes them very dangerous. If Leinster can be allowed to play there is no doubt they will win, but the Ospreys will come at Leinster with everything they have.

Irish Independent