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Sunday 4 December 2016

'You'll see a lot more aerial contesting' - Rob Kearney hints at Ireland's future tactics

Six Nations kicking game could be used later on

Ireland’s Rob Kearney races clear to score his side’s seventh try of the game during the Rugby World Cup match against Canada at the Millennium Stadium
Ireland’s Rob Kearney races clear to score his side’s seventh try of the game during the Rugby World Cup match against Canada at the Millennium Stadium

Rob Kearney has predicted the magic will be sacrificed for pragmatism as the World Cup rolls on.

This comes despite the exhilirating rugby played by Japan in condemning South Africa to defeat in Pool B and sending shockwaves all around the rugby world .

It comes in contrast to the way Argentina kept the ball in hand to cause New Zealand untold trouble in Pool C on Sunday.

"What matters is winning games," he said.

In fact, the Ireland full-back has suggested that the world will veer towards the style of rugby Ireland used to win the last Six Nations.

"As this tournament goes on and teams get more evenly matched and the margins are smaller, you'll see a lot more aerial contesting and kicking of ball.

"That's a tactic teams will use when the stakes are higher," he said.

It is a style of rugby Ireland are well-versed in and one that is second nature to Joe Schmidt's obsessive pursuit of perfection of the basics.

Truth

There is more than a grain of truth about Kearney's assertion given how New Zealand in 2011, South Africa in 2007, England in 2003, South Africa in 1995 and Australia in 1991 all narrowed their game plans to rely on percentage rugby.

So far, Ireland have shown variety and verve in their attacking game as they lost the label of being as blunt as a New York cab driver, for one week at least.

The nous and application of aggression needed to carve up Canada for seven tries is nowhere near what will be demanded against Italy, never mind France.

Kearney has been around long enough not to take negative comments too seriously, especially when they have a ring of truth about them.

"It was great to score some tries after the criticism in the Six Nations that we weren't creating enough," he said.

"The criticism didn't hurt because ideally you want to be scoring tries."

Increasingly, there will be a premium placed on points, however you can capture them.

This is where Schmidt has a big decision to make over the next fifteen men he will ask to put their bodies on the line against the hard-hitting Romanians on Sunday.

There is always the risk of injury where every country, no matter how potent or limited, brings true physical commitment regardless of the big games just hovering on the horizon.

Kearney, for one, has his hand firmly in the air for another hit out given the only out-and-out full-back in the squad was playing for just his second time this season against Canada, three weeks after his first taste against Wales.

"Yeah, I was tired," said the Louthman.

"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 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."

Nonetheless, Schmidt has already pointed to the likelihood of multiple changes in order to preserve energy levels for the weeks ahead.

"It's not like the Six Nations or November when you have an unlimited number of people to choose from," remarked Kearney about the stress placed on the limitations of a 31-man squad.

"Some people will be asked to double up again and when you're asked to double up at a World Cup, you're more than happy."

When you know you are a gallop or two short of your peak, you may be the one asking to play.

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