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'Real Ireland' must step up

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Rob Kearney

Rob Kearney

SPORTSFILE

Rob Kearney

ROB KEARNEY has challenged his team-mates to bounce back and show the "real Ireland" in Saturday's final Six Nations clash against Scotland.

The full-back conceded that Joe Schmidt's side had been beaten at their own game by Wales and lamented a "very, very poor" first-half performance at the Millennium Stadium last weekend, but said all eyes are now on the bid for back-to-back titles this weekend.

Despite their 23-16 loss to Wales, Ireland remain firmly in the hunt to claim the Championship on points difference.

Insight

"We're in a pretty good place," Kearney said. "Ten wins out of last 11 games. I think we're going alright. This week will be a big test and will give a really strong insight into the group as a whole, how we react after a very disappointing defeat.

"We'll see the real Ireland step up this week. A lot of us who underperformed last week know if we get the opportunity to right a lot of those wrongs."

Schmidt will have a full squad to choose from ahead of the pivotal meeting with the winless Scots who will be motivated by the fear of a Wooden Spoon. With the title set to come down to points difference, Ireland trail leaders England by a mere four points with Wales a further 21 back.

Wales kick off what promises to be a dramatic final day against Italy in Rome and can set the benchmark for both Ireland and England with a win of more than 25 points.

Ireland then take up the baton at Murrayfield, before England face France at home.

Despite the fact that the winner could come at any of the three venues on Saturday, Six Nations organisers will have one replica trophy in Edinburgh and another at London, while Wales will have to wait for their silverware if they claim the title.

While England coach Stuart Lancaster last week banned his team from finding out the score of Wales' win over Ireland before they kicked off against Scotland, Kearney (below) conceded that he would prefer to know the result from Rome.

However, he insisted that would not lead to Ireland trying to run up a score at the expense of the result.

While he expects his side to play with the "shackles off" in their final game, the Louth native does not expect them to go all-out attack from the off.

"This is not a game like Sevens when we're going out to play and score loads of tries," he said. "The Scottish do play a very expansive type of game. If one team who bring that sort of game plan that can rub off on the opposition. It could potentially be a very exciting game.

"Any time you get to the last game of a Championship you can go and play a bit. When I say that it's important the wrong perception isn't picked up here and we're going to chase this game and we're going to try and build points, because we're not.

"But we do know that we have to go out and give this game a right bash.

"It's important to get the win but how we do that will be no different to over the last three or four weeks.

"We won't be focusing in any way on the outcome, or points difference or anything like that. We have to be really professional and treat this just as a one-off game.

"As soon as you start talking points difference and stuff, you disrespect the Scottish.

"That's something we don't want to do, and if we do you'll be punished for it.

"We certainly won't be thinking or talking about any points difference. We'll be going to win the game."

Irish Independent