Friday 24 November 2017

Kearney itching for game-time against Waratahs as Zebo waits in wings

Rob Kearney watches the action from the stand
Rob Kearney watches the action from the stand
Irish winger Simon Zebo watches yesterday’s Lions game from the stands in Hunter Stadium, Newcastle, alongside the injured Tommy Bowe, the man he has flown in to cover

Conor George and Ruaidhri O'Connor

ROB KEARNEY is winning his battle to be fit for the Lions' meeting with the New South Wales Waratahs on Saturday.

The Leinster and Ireland star is desperate to start the game after a four-week lay-off in order to give himself the best chance of getting into Warren Gatland's side to face Australia in Saturday week's first Test.

The Louth man could be joined in the team to face the Waratahs by Simon Zebo after Gatland confirmed that the Munster man, who has flown in as cover for Tommy Bowe, will feature against either the Waratahs or the Brumbies next Tuesday.

Kearney suffered a grade one tear of his hamstring in the build-up to Leinster's Pro12 final win over Ulster and has been working his way back to fitness since arriving in Australia last week. He returns to full training tomorrow.

"The recovery is coming on and I plan to do a full pitch training session tomorrow," Kearney reveals in his exclusive Irish Independent diary today. "I have hit all of my rehabilitation targets and it has gone well. I am hoping to be available on Saturday for the clash with the Waratahs.

"I have not been given any indication as to whether I will be involved, but given the lack of time to impress before the first Test in Brisbane on Saturday week, ideally I want to start."

Kearney also reveals that seeing the disappointment suffered by Leinster team-mate Cian Healy has given him perspective on his own situation.

"This is the one time in four years not to get injured, so for a guy who was really in the mix for a Test spot to miss out is heartbreaking," he says.

"Sport is unpredictable and you never know what's around the corner. When I went into the scanning machine last Sunday week, I knew that within 15 minutes I could have been heading for the airport and be back in Dublin in no time.

"It gives you perspective. I'm happy to still be involved and enjoying the atmosphere, but I am itching to get out on the pitch."

The Lions move on to Sydney today and will play Michael Cheika's Waratahs on Saturday, when 23-year-old Zebo could get his first chance to wear the red jersey.

"Simon will play at some point in the next two games," said Gatland. "He's out here now and we'll look to use him. He's just off a flight, but we'll put him into training and he'll see action against either the Waratahs or the Brumbies."

Ulster wing Bowe, who underwent surgery on his broken hand at the weekend, will remain with the squad and it is hoped that he will be available for the second Test on June 29.

"Tommy's injury was always a three-week one. He won't be available for the first Test, but we are hopeful he will be ready for the second Test in Melbourne," Gatland added.

"He'll stay with the squad for now and we'll keep monitoring him."

Irish Independent

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