Wednesday 21 March 2018

Rob Kearney: 'I'll return to Australia to see the sights – now it's all about seizing my chance'

Injury scare was stark reminder that this window of opportunity can slam shut quickly

Conor Murray in action for the Lions during their victory over Combined Country
Conor Murray in action for the Lions during their victory over Combined Country

Rob Kearney

THIS week has seen some comings and goings in our squad and it has given me plenty of perspective on my position. I have not played on this tour yet because of my hamstring injury, but I am still here and I still have a chance.

The recovery is coming on and I plan to do a full pitch training session tomorrow. I have hit all of my rehabilitation targets, it has gone well and I am hoping to be available on Saturday for the clash with the New South Wales Waratahs.

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

I outlined my rehab schedule in last week's column and it has been more of the same since.

Last Friday I began running again, doing some footwork and building the muscle up. Yesterday, I started hitting my top speed.


The physios have put a GPS on me so they can monitor the speeds and metres run and calculate it as close as possible to what I would be doing come game-time.

It means, while there will naturally be nerves when I take to the field for the first time, I know that I wouldn't be selected or put on the field unless I was hitting my targets. The nerves come from the nature of hamstrings – they are very hard to predict and you have no control over them, but having done my rehab I am hopeful of coming through.

I was really disappointed for my Leinster team-mate Cian Healy and 2009 colleague Gethin Jenkins, who have had to go home with injuries, while Tommy Bowe is fighting hard to recover from the broken bone in his hand.

Conversely, there is huge joy for Simon Zebo, who arrived in Newcastle on Tuesday, but for every Simon there is a Cian. I spoke to him before he went home – it was a huge blow for him.

I mentioned last week how 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. Sport is unpredictable: 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 headed for the airport and been back in Dublin in no time. It gives you perspective. I am happy to still be involved and be in the atmosphere, but I am itching to get out on the pitch.

However, it is important not to rush it. I have to be patient and trust that guys like me who are coming back from injuries can get a break if they bide their time. You never know what will happen and it is about getting yourself in the best possible condition and frame of mind.

If I make it onto the pitch on Saturday I need to be in the best possible place to make the impact I need to make.

If I am selected, I will be facing off against Michael Cheika for the first time since he left Leinster.

'Cheiks' gave me my provincial debut and I spent a lot of time with him during his four years with the province, winning the Heineken Cup in 2009.

It will be strange going up against him on the other side of the world.

He will definitely have his team up for this clash. The Saturday games are always your most difficult ones – Queensland Reds put everything in to it last weekend and the lads did well to get their win in a difficult game. These teams get one chance and they pour everything into it.

The collisions and the standard are on a different level, because the opposition throw everything they have at you.

Yesterday's win over the Combined Country XV extended our unbeaten record and confidence is high, but we know that bigger tests lie ahead

My injury has meant that my off-field activities have been limited; I will return to Australia again and see the sights. I just want to make sure I am giving myself every chance possible to play. We have a small window to make it and I have to do everything I can.

On Saturday, myself and Jamie Heaslip asked one of the video analysts to rig up a stream so we could watch Ireland's win over the USA.

We were watching it as Gaeilge on TG4 and I can't imagine there were many in Australia doing that.

The Americans were strong, but the Irish lads did well and some of the new guys put in really strong performances. It is good to see them bonding on tour and it was a good result in tough conditions.

My brother Dave is on tour in Georgia and they're having, well, an interesting time.

The other day I saw a picture of him on a donkey, while they had to get taxis to training when the bus broke down. He and the Emerging Ireland squad will have plenty of good stories when they come back.

The Lions has been more conventional, but with the Tests looming there is serious work to be done. Hopefully I will get the chance to get to wear that red jersey again on Saturday and it can all roll from there.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport