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Monday 18 December 2017

Kearney dismayed by season

Full-back Rob Kearney was left to reflect on a disappointing season for Ireland after they were hammered by New Zealand for the second time in their three-match series.

The positives of the narrow 22-19 defeat in the second Test were buried by heavy defeats either side of that, 42-10 at Eden Park and Saturday’s 60-0 crushing in Hamilton.

They also finished third in the Six Nations earlier in the year, their only wins coming against Italy and Scotland, and Kearney admitted: “For us, as a national team, it probably hasn’t been that great a season.

“A couple of games could have gone our way; I look at Wales at home (21-23) and France away (17-17), and last week as well.

“All three of them went against us but that’s sport and we have to move on.”

Kearney must wish his season could have finished on May 21. On that day, just 48 hours after his Leinster side had won the Heineken Cup, the full-back captured the European Player of the Year award.

His performance in the narrow loss in Christchurch, like the rest of his team-mates, was endeavour and fight personified. However, he was decidedly outclassed by his opposite number, Israel Dagg, in Hamilton.

He conceded that the lack of Irish consistency and a significant rise in class and output from the All Blacks combined for a defeat that now ranks as his country’s worst. The Leinster man added that he felt the hosts’ guile and handling skills were the key factor.

“They all offload in the tackle and that is the strength of their game,” said Kearney.

“I think that was our biggest weakness, as a team, that we didn’t stop their offloads.”

The Irish Under-20s were fifth at the Junior World Cup at the weekend but Kearney doesn’t think too many of that side should be instantly elevated to the national side for the November Series in Dublin.

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