Thursday 22 February 2018

Rob Kearney: When you're the only one injured, you can feel a little isolated

Rob Kearney works with physiotherapist Prav Mathema during the captain's run ahead of the Lions' game against Western Force
Rob Kearney works with physiotherapist Prav Mathema during the captain's run ahead of the Lions' game against Western Force

IF THERE is one time every four years that a player does not want to pick up an injury this is it, but I am hopeful that I will still get a chance to prove myself ahead of the Test series.

The hamstring injury that I suffered in the build-up to the RaboDirect Pro12 final will rule me out of the two games this week and it is a real blow at such an important time.

However, it could have been worse and I remain optimistic that I will be able to feature in one of next week's matches and give myself a chance to play my way into contention.

I went for the scan on Sunday, 10 days after the injury happened, and it was a mixture of disappointment and relief when the results emerged.

Before the scan I knew that if the injury proved to be worse than expected there was a real possibility of returning home without ever wearing the jersey. So when the results came out as they were, while it wasn't great news, I knew I could still contribute to the tour.

There are always mixed emotions with these things. Some days you look at it with a glass half-full and think things could be worse. That is a mantra I try to follow.

However, on the other side of it, you're thinking, out of the whole 37-man squad you're the only one not available to play, you think about the timing and you can start feeling sorry for yourself. It is only natural.

The rehabilitation can be a lonely process because your programme is so tailored to your specific needs. All the other lads are fit to train, so I have been working on my own to try and get back to fitness.

There are three physiotherapists on the tour and I am working with a Welsh one Prav Mathema, who also treated me on the 2009 tour. I spend two hours a day with him, training and rehabilitating the hamstring. We put a huge amount of trust in the experts and their programmes during what are career-defining weeks.

I'm icing the injury four times a day, keeping my leg compressed constantly, getting massaged. It is about doing everything possible to speed up recovery.

It is really difficult to watch the lads train and play. That's what we're here for, guys are in the zone; they're not being selfish, but they are focused on themselves.

When you're the only one who is injured you can feel a little isolated, but you can't mope around and feel sorry for yourself. It is important to get involved off the pitch.

Atmosphere is everything on tour – moping creates a bad buzz and you have to get involved wherever possible. Everyone needs to contribute to that and, in turn, it helps me stay sane. Indeed, the only thing that I don't do in the squad at the moment is train and play.

We have arrived in Perth after an extraordinarily hot week in Hong Kong. Since touching down here on Monday it has been a great contrast. Perth is beautiful, the temperature is 22 degrees, the sun is out and there is a blue sky. We can breathe again.

We shocked the locals on Monday by going for a recovery session in the Indian Ocean. It was a little bit cold, but the Aussies thought we were madmen, with one four-year-old looking at us with amazement, wondering what we were doing swimming in the autumn.

Afterwards, we went to the coffee shop on the beach, ordered about 60 coffees, and there was a real feeling that we had arrived in Australia, that the tour had begun.

I have met more Irish people in Perth than Australians, they are everywhere. There is a lot of green and even more red – there are a lot of Munster fans here and they're making themselves known!

GELLING

The one thing that struck me on the 2009 tour was how easily everyone came together, and it has been the same this time around. Guys are comfortable with each other. It is hard to describe why or how it happens but it does. Sometimes the guys you least expect to get on with are the soundest, and it is only in this environment that you find these things out.

You could remain in a comfort zone and pal around with the Leinster and Irish boys, but it is about making the effort to gel with the other lads from different countries. If you go out for coffee with guys from the other countries, you feel good about it and you have contributed to the squad.

Apart from getting myself fit, my other responsibility is to hand out fines as part of the committee. I've ended up rooming with Alun Wyn Jones for the second week running after the rooming committee paired us together, so they are definitely going to be hit with a fine in the days to come.

Having beaten the Barbarians, the team are going into tonight's game full of confidence, while the squad are really gelling.

So, while I have had disappointing news, I am hopeful that there is time for me to recover and stake my claim.

Things could have been worse, but I'm still here and determined to make my mark.

Irish Independent

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