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Friday 22 September 2017

Dave gets ready to wing it again

Kearney bids to compete with Byrne, O'Loughlin and McFadden for shirt

Leinster's Dave Kearney. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Dave Kearney. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster are moving rapidly towards the business end of the season when play-off places, finals and trophies loom into view.

Generally, this is when the tries dry-up and the defences ramp-up.

For instance, Leinster and The Ospreys went into their weekend showdown as joint record breakers, each accumulating ten try bonus-points from the previous 18 rounds.

It was expected to be a high-scoring shootout.

The best both could manage was two each at the Liberty Stadium, moving Leinster's try-scoring record from 79 to 81 tries with three rounds of the League still to play.

Adam Byrne and Rory O'Loughlin have taken their chances in attack to register nine and eight tries, respectively.

However, Byrne's current form is none in his last five appearances and one in the last seven.

He will step up his rehabilitation of a minor hamstring tweak this week and could be involved against Connacht on Saturday.

O'Loughlin, alternating between centre and wing recently, has one try in his last six.

There have also been signs of defensive vulnerability from the novices in recent weeks.

This coincides with the return of Dave Kearney from a problematic ankle, concussion and toe injury.

What about this season then? "Definitely the worst, I'd say," said Kearney.

"I think I have only been involved in six or seven games this season.

Hand up

"I can't believe that we are in April already and not too much left to play games-wise.

"For me, it is just getting back out on the pitch, get as much game time as I can and put my hand up for selection.

"There are some really big games. If you look at the fixture list we have, Connacht, Clermont, Glasgow and Ulster, some really tough games there."

Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster know Kearney has a big game temperament.

"Yeah, the coaches know what I can do and what I can bring," said the Louth man.

"It probably doesn't mean too much if the lads who are there are playing well.

"You've got to work your way back into the team."

This all began with two tries in 70 minutes against Treviso in February, one half against Edinburgh five days later - interupted by a head knock - and the final quarter at The Ospreys.

"You're not going to be just handed the jersey, especially if lads are going well.

"If I was in the position where I was playing and someone else was given a jersey straight after coming back from injury, I obviously wouldn't be happy."

Like Fergus McFadden, the 27 year-old wing is a competitor to his core and has maximised the returns from his career.

"I know that I have to fight to get a playing spot back and I know how difficult that is going to be," he said.

"I know how important and how scarce opportunities are coming towards the end of the season.

"I just need to be ready for them when they come."

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