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Thursday 8 December 2016

Kearney wipes the hard drive

Leinster teammate backs loose-head Healy to return to his best

Leinster's Cian Healy
Leinster's Cian Healy

Rob Kearney is working towards replacing one of the worst seasons in his career with one of the best.

When he made it onto the field of play for Leinster in 2015/2016, it was to last the 80 minutes four times and to lose out to Toulon twice and Wasps once in his three appearances in the Champions Cup.

It was all capped off by lasting through just an hour of the defeat to Connacht in the PRO12 League final.

"I played very little rugby last year. Physically, you do feel refreshed. But, mentally, it was very challenging," he said.

"I had five hamstring strains last year. They were never overly serious. They were all Grade-1s. You know, you're in - you're out.

"They just kept me out for 10-14 day and it was just impossible to get any sort of momentum together."

It all meant not making the plane to South Africa for a series Ireland could have and should have won before the player resources were stretched to breaking point.

"The tour was disappointing to miss," he reflected.

"But, maybe it was a blessing in hindsight, just to wipe the hard drive clean, go back to basics and work really hard on getting back in good shape."

Of course, Kearney wasn't the only one of Joe Schmidt's British and Irish Lions candidates looking to shed the thin skin of a broken season.

The debate has been fuelled about whether loose-head Cian Healy can recapture his special powers following serious shoulder/neck surgery that saw him turn out as a shadow of himself.

"He is certainly on the way," reviewed Kearney.

"He clocked in a good 60 minutes (against Treviso). Whatever about backs and outside backs, it probably takes forwards a little longer to find their match fitness."

Healy has already looked better in his outing against Benetton Treviso last Friday than for any significant part of last season.

The black support strip on his hand is no more, indicating a full recovery of power for scrummaging, and there have been a few kilos shaved from his chiselled frame to reveal a revitalised physical force.

"He's still very young. He's strong and explosive," added the Ireland full-back.

"His markers are still exactly where they were when he was in his prime.

"When you are looking at the hard facts of it, I see no reason why he can't back to his best."

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