Saturday 20 January 2018

Rob Kearney hails Ireland's 'train as you play' mentality

Ireland and Leinster full-back Rob Kearney
Ireland and Leinster full-back Rob Kearney

Michael Verney

Rob Kearney has lauded Ireland's exemplary discipline and is hoping for more of the same when they welcome the unpredictable French to Dublin on Valentine's Day.

The Lions star believes that head coach Joe Schmidt, whom he also worked with at Leinster, has made the Irish team hard to beat by encouraging high standards of discipline.

The talented full-back outlined some of Schmidt's training methodologies and believes that his attention to detail has helped propel them to eight consecutive international wins.

"Discipline doesn't happen by chance and we work damn hard on it. If you're caught offside or commit a penalty you get a yellow card and you're put off the field," Kearney said.

"You play with 14 men and if you're getting a stare from your team mates in training then you probably won't do it Saturday. You've got to train as you play.

"We're trying to become as much of an error-free team as we can. If you combine that with really good discipline and you're not giving the opposition kicks at goal you'll be a tough team to break."

Read more: Neil Francis: Not the men they once were but France are still a threat

Kearney acknowledged that their display on the opening weekend against Italy was not up to scratch and they must raise their game significantly if they are to record their first win against France at the Aviva Stadium.

He said: "When we came off the field against Italy we knew we were way off the pace. We were delighted with 26 points and to keep Italy out but we know we need to up the gears for France."

He was however all-praise for the new centre duo of Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw and believes they are bedding into the side nicely. 

Kearney said: "They're going really well and the more they play together the better they will get. They're under pressure but they are repaying it in bucket loads."

He believes there is still a great level of unpredictability to Philipe Saint-Andre's side and that they must be on their toes throughout the 80 minutes.

"They score tries off loose ball and turnover ball. With other teams you might switch off but that's when France are at their most dangerous. It's something we have to be very aware of," the 28-year-old said.

"You don't give them scraps. You don't force off loads and you try to minimise the amount of turnovers you're giving them. You probably play a little bit of a safer game and kicking must be deadly accurate."

Kearney singled out French out-half Camille Lopez and his opposite number Scott Spedding, who carried over 90 metres in their victory over Scotland, for particular praise.

"Lopez is the type of individual who will pull things out of no-where. He'll chip, kick cross field, kick long. He has a full array of tricks," he said.

"Spedding is a great player. Anyone who can keep Brice Dulin out of a team is obviously doing something right. I think he compliments their back three and he's a good distributor but in fairness they all are."

Despite their dour performance against the Scots the Leinster club man believes that Les Blues are a formidable force and will provide a huge challenge on Saturday.

He said: "They're a class team and they have that ability to switch it on and demolish teams. They also have the ability to keep it tight, hang in there and beat teams."

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