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Monday 5 December 2016

Kearney keen to back up Blacks show

Ireland must be better than they were in Chicago

Rob Kearney in action against New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago. Photo: Sportsfile
Rob Kearney in action against New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster players (l-r) Isa Nacewa, Peter Dooley and Adam Byrne at the launch of the Aware Christmas Run which takes place on Saturday, December 10 in the Phoenix Park. Registration for the event is at aware.ie.

There is what you say in private and there is what you say in public.

Rob Kearney is canny enough to be well-versed in the differ ence between the two.

However, he has always been forthright and as honest as he can be within reason.

The last 18 months have been played more on his mind than out on the pitch.

"I never got too low during the tough times. It is important now that you don't get too high on the other side," he said, in reflecting on Chicago.

"There is a little confidence back. But I need to back it up. The onus is on me to do that."

Despite the colourful reviews of Kearney's impact in making what the Americans like to call 'big plays,' like his retrieval of Jonathan Sexton's restart over the top of Ben Smith, there were those two missed tackles on Waisake Naholo and Scott Barrett.

"Tackling-wise, the first one against Naholo for their first try, that's always an unbelievably difficult tackle.

"People sometimes expect those to get made," he said.

Difficult

"When you've got Naholo with 20 metres either side of you, it's is difficult.

"The one on Barrett for his try was poor," he admitted.

"I just planted a lit tle bit too early and left my feet behind me. He sort of threw a half shimmy, but I needed to stop him on that occasion."

Joe Schmidt's decision to retain the Louthman for Chicago came under fire for being made on past performances rather than current form.

"It was the first time in a while where my selection was under doubt and I wasn't sure, so you're grateful of the opportunity," he said.

"At the same time, you know that you don't have too many more chances either.

"There was a fair bit of pressure on me, personal pressure, but then there was outside pressure too, which you try not to let affect you too much.

"But, it is there and it's something that you know is there."

There has been much made of Schmidt's man management in telling Kearney he needed "a big one" in Chicago.

"Listen, I knew I needed a big game, but when the coach tells you a few minutes before kick-off ... it was different."

"Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it? If I had a poor game, people would be thinking, 'what are you doing saying that to a player?' You never know.

"We've been together a long time now and as coaches go, he probably knows what makes me tick a huge amount."

The process of moving on means Ireland have had to store away what happened last Saturday week.

They have to concentrate on the storm that is about to blow up in front of them.

"The New Zealand that's going to come on Saturday is guaranteed to be different to the one that was in Chicago.

"We just need to make sure that the Ireland is different too."

Kearney knows all about what it is like to feel the brunt of an All Blacks backlash from his experience in 2012.

Ireland were a Dan Carter drop goal away from a draw one week and on the end of a 60-0 whitewash the next.

"The only thing I remember in that game is constantly being under our sticks," he recalled.

"I remember Romain Poite sin-binned me, but I remember thinking, 'Jeez, I'd be happy enough just to stay here for the rest of the game.'

"It was an awful night. There was a backlash then and there'll be another one this week."

Would a defeat to New Zealand water down what was achieved in the first test?

"In the present moment, it probably would," stated Kearney.

"The fact that we've beaten them once, we've gotten the monkey off our back for the history books and for every other Irish team that plays them.

"They will take the field knowing that it has been done," he said.

"In three or four weeks, when we reflect on this block of games, what happens on Saturday will play a fair bit in determining just how good an Autumn it was."

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