'We want people saying 'Please pick me!'' – Andy Farrell insists form is key as he leaves door open for Rob Kearney
Incoming Ireland rugby coach Andy Farrell has insisted the door is not shut on Rob Kearney’s international career.
And he has also issued a warning to the 45-man squad who left his first camp in the IRFU's new HQ in Abbottstown that none of them should take it for granted that they will be returning when he selects his Six Nations squad at the end of next month.
Leinster full-back Kearney was the high-profile omission from Farrell's squad but Joe Schmidt’s former assistant has maintained that he will pick all his squads primarily based on form.
"As you can see this squad was based on form and we can’t include everyone in the camp," said Farrell.
"So we had to make a decision somewhere along the line. I’ve made it very clear to all the boys who’ve been in camp here over the last 24 hours that certainly this isn’t selection for the Six Nations.
"I've made it very clear to them what it is going to take for them to get selected. I’ve spoken to Rob but also other players who are not here and told them we will be watching them over this Christmas period.
"There are some big games in Ireland and then all the big games in Europe during January. It's a big time for all the players and hopefully we will be picking a squad in January that is brimming with form."
After criticism that Schmidt relied too heavily on experienced players rather than form guides, his successor has stressed that he will be cognisant of how players are performing in the interpros and over the two final rounds of Heineken Champions Cup before he selects his 2020 Six Nations squad.
"Form has to be at the forefront of selection. It’s not everything. You obviously look at what players will bring to the squad in terms of what they will add. Is what they have going to make the team play better?
"But we do want people sticking their heads above the parapet and saying, "Please pick me!" That's what we want to see over the next four or five weeks and I’m looking forward to watching that.
"I’m sure players who are not here this weekend will be in the squad but we’ll see. We can’t pick 45 anyway. Maybe there are players that you would expect to get picked, who have already been in this camp, who may not get picked the next time.
"I’ve said to the boys leaving now that we need to be ready when we come into camp the next time. We’ve been watching the form over the last four or five weeks. But it’s not a line that is drawn and everyone is on it.
"I've explained to them that it is not about being just one of four or five players. You have to stand out, you’ve got to make it clear and obvious to everyone that you’re desperate to be in the squad.
"There are people who’ve trained over the last 24 hours and they'll take stock of those words and hopefully that will help them with their performances for the provinces over the next month.
"And some of them may fall off the wayside as well. But we'll assess it as we go."