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Thursday 8 December 2016

Kearney can't hit reset button

Full-back wants Leinster to move forward and emulate form shown by semi rivals

Rob Kearney has ten days to beat the clock and be ready for the home semifinal against Ulster
Rob Kearney has ten days to beat the clock and be ready for the home semifinal against Ulster

It is too late in the season for Rob Kearney to hit the reset button for club or for country.

The failure at the World Cup, based on Ireland's stated ambition to make the final four, was highlighted at the IRUPA Awards last week as CJ Stander was voted as the Player's Player of the Year.

The Munster captain was not eligible to be part of the World Cup and, thus, won the award for how he lifted Ireland with his impact in the Six Nations.

"It is probably a little bit strange and it might highlight two things - how good his season has been outside of the World Cup and how a lot of us might potentially want to forget the World Cup," shared Kearney.

At this point, the Six Nations is long gone. So too the Champions Cup. The PRO12 League is the only trophy left on the table.

The Ireland full-back is currently dealing with an ankle injury he couldn't shake off against Benetton Treviso.

He has ten days to beat the clock and make the PRO12 League semi-final against northern neighbours Ulster.

Sadly, the impression persists of a club still searching for form with a maximum of two matches left on their calendar.

It makes sense to read more into what happened away to Ulster than what happened at home to Treviso last Saturday.

"Sometimes you have weekends where you just need to set it aside and move forward," said Kearney.

"We didn't have time to start taking out a fine-tooth comb and go through everything that went wrong against Ulster. We needed to look forward."

Embarrassment

Leinster were able to shed the thin skin of embarrassment from their 30-6 humiliation at the Kingspan Stadium through a 50-19 dismissal of the Italians.

In one way, it uncovered more cracks than it sealed off.

The concession of three tries and the passive nature of Leinster's second-half defence was difficult to comprehend, given how the players are fighting to be involved in the play-offs.

It simply doesn't wash that they clocked off to cough up three tries because the game was won.

Leinster do not have the luxury of looking back on a season that has produced little in the way of vintage rugby.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. They have won more games (16) than any other club in the competition by conceding the least points (290) and the least tries (27).

However, they have registered the eighth highest points (458) and the seventh most tries (51).

In other words, they have defended their way to the semi-finals.

Despite Glasgow Warriors fall to Connacht to leave Gregor Townsend to contemplate an away semi-final, they remain a powerful presence.

"They're really good right now, they're the form team, the current holders - they went through a very tricky stage there at the start and middle of the year, but they've turned it around now.

"They're a team who are really on form at the moment," said Kearney.

Connacht showed the champions can be beaten and Ulster showed how explosive they can be at the Ospreys.

Leinster have to get over Ulster in the semi-final on Friday week.

The prize from there is a cross-channel trip to Edinburgh where Leinster won their first Heineken Cup in 2009.

"Murrayfield is lovely, but we'll worry about that if and when we get there."

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