Saturday 20 January 2018

Rob Kearney: Japan proved that you underestimate sides at your own peril

Ireland's Rob Kearney poses for a portrait after a press conference today. Ireland Rugby Press Conference, 2015 Rugby World Cup, St George's Park, Burton-upon-Trent, England. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Rob Kearney poses for a portrait after a press conference today. Ireland Rugby Press Conference, 2015 Rugby World Cup, St George's Park, Burton-upon-Trent, England. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Japan’s shock win over South Africa sent shock waves around the world and the ripple effect is already in full flow with players from several countries warning against complacency against the so-called ‘minnows’.

Ireland have already maneuvered their way past Canada who Joe Schmidt had described as an “incredible banana skin” and this weekend they face Romania, a side ranked one-place ahead of the North Americans.

While Ireland have a welcome seven-day break in between their clash with Romania, their opponents face a short four-day turnaround.

Rob Kearney has been around the block long enough to not take teams for granted and under Schmidt’s watch, there’s never been any room for complacency.

The focus has immediately shifted to the Romanians since arriving yesterday at their new base in the FA’s headquarters, St. George’s Park and Kearney acknowledged that the preparation is altered for the lesser nations.

“From inside the group, the four walls of when we do our analysis, but not from a point of view of expecting to win them and win them well,” he explained.

“You’ll be hearing a lot about the Japanese and what they’ve done, if you underestimate sides and don’t prepare properly then you can very easily get turned over on the day.

“So analysis was good, and Joe being Joe picked out things we can work on.

“We got some good points on the board (against Canada), scored some good tries, it was a decent hit-out in the Millennium under a closed roof that will stand to us in a few weeks time.

“No injuries too, so there’s a good few things we can work on. In the second half we got turned over a few times and could have put away a few more opportunities.”

Last Saturday was Kearney’s first game back since missing the England defeat with a knee injury and although he didn’t feel any ill-effects, he admitted that fatigue played a major issue on his return.

The heat inside the Millennium Stadium under the closed made conditions stickier than it may have come across on television. Kearney though was relieved to hear that his teammates felt equally as tired after what was a pacey game.

“Yeah, I was tired,” he said. “I haven’t been that spent now in a long, long time.

“I don’t know if it was the first proper competitive game back, the roof closed, or the fact there was a huge amount of ball in play. I’ve pulled up okay but I was unbelievably tired after the game.

“I think I was asking around the lads after the game hoping they’d say the same so I wasn’t miles off the pace.

“But the general consensus was that the pace was very, very quick.”

Ireland’s attacking play was one of the most pleasing aspects of the victory. They managed to score seven tries but it could easily have been more had they been more clinical but nevertheless Kearney was naturally pleased to see some of the training ground moves come off when it mattered most.

“Yeah it’s nice, one of the criticisms in the last Six Nations was that we didn’t score enough tries.

“We did that against Scotland and I think some of the chat last week was that if we could try to play that game with a similar mindset then we would be able to get a few more tries.

“So listen, backs will tell you we’re in it for the tries, and we like to paly running rugby, so when you get a few you’re happy.

“I think ideally you want to be scoring tries but what matters is winning games.

“And you’ll find as this tournament goes on that teams get more evenly matches when the margins are smaller, you’ll see a lot more aerial contesting and kicking ball. That’s a tactic teams will use when the stakes are higher,” he added.

Dave Kearney has played his way right into contention for a place in starting XV come the latter stages of the pool but having worked with him closely throughout the summer, his progress hasn’t come as a surprise to the elder brother.

"I'm really happy to see him get what he deserves. Maybe I'm a little bit biased but he was always very much a part of the team in my mind.

“I think had it not been for that injury he picked up against Wasps last year he may well have featured in the Six Nations and I think his performances in the Six Nations two years ago were very, very good.

“I'm delighted he has gotten his opportunity given the competition for that wing spot was so massive. He needed to take his opportunities, he did and it was nice to see him score a try at the weekend.”

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