Kearney: My words got twisted
Full-back admits guard now up after misleading reports by English press
ROB Kearney is the last person in the rugby world to set out to court controversy. Last Wednesday, a headline appeared in The Daily Telegraph suggesting the Irish full-back had little respect for England. It was ordained as arrogance. Nothing could be further from the truth.
HEADLINE: ROB KEARNEY INSISTS IRELAND ARE MUCH BETTER THAN ENGLAND AHEAD OF SIX NATIONS CLASH.
- The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday March 14
Rob Kearney is the last person in the rugby world to set out to court controversy.
Last Wednesday, a headline appeared in The Daily Telegraph suggesting the Irish full-back had little respect for England. It was ordained as arrogance. Nothing could be further from the truth.
And it still rankles: "I was asked the question: you have won seven out of the last eight meetings with England. What do you put that down to?
"I said: any team who has won seven out of the last eight games would indicate that they have been the better side.
"As regards the England match on Saturday, I didn't mention anything about it. I talked purely in the past, not the future. You couldn't predict that.
"We've played New Zealand, I think 24 times, and we've never beaten them. Logic prevails that they have been the better team. It's not rocket science. It's straight. It's true."
The problem for Kearney is the same as the problem for the media. He wants to be informative. The writers want something informative to write about. This is where the element of trust comes into play.
"It did annoy me. I don't go into a press conference trying to say something controversial. The fact that we were playing England, the English press likes to build things up. They will twist the words of players.
"You say something and it gets misinterpreted. It is taking words from your mouth and turning them into something else. Then, other newspapers latch into it."
The knock-on effect is that a player is wary of who he is talking to and whether or not what he says will be reported the right way.
"You have to be very careful in an interview. It is easy for the interviewees. They throw out questions, albeit calculated ones," he responds.
"You have to register the question, think about it, and put out an answer. Once you say something, that's it, it's out there. You can't take it back.
"If a simple factual statement like that is altered and blown out of proportion, the next time you go into a press conference, you are just going to give standard, banal answers no one wants to hear.
"I would imagine journalists want players to give honest, open interviews where they say what they really think. Players aren't going to do that if they say one thing and it is portrayed as another."
What is Kearney's opinion on where Ireland and England stand at this point in time? "Do I think Ireland are a better team than England now? I think we are fairly evenly matched teams, just different types of teams.
"Home advantage can make a big difference. If you look at the points swing between 2011 and this year in the Six Nations, there is little to choose. They put 30 points on us on Saturday. We put 24 on them last year."
If the British & Irish Lions test team was picked today, Kearney would be nailed on to be the full-back such was his dominance in the air and on the floor in the Six Nations.
"When you're plucking 50-50 balls out of the sky that might not necessarily be yours, it gives you confidence. You are going to stand an inch taller every time you go after one of those balls," he says.
"I know well enough to start talking about The Lions is ridiculous. It is 15 months away. This Six Nations will have no influence next year."
The position of the full-back can be the loneliest place on the planet. He is the one player on the pitch who works in complete isolation.
"Full-backs are always seen to be defensively poor. Any time he has to make a tackle, he is so exposed. When a back three player is one-on-one with a full-back I would expect to see him beaten eight-out-of-10 times.
"Flip that on its head. The full-back should only be able to make two-out-of-10 tackles in that position. There is so much space for the attacker to play with and no protection either side of the defender."
For instance, Richie Gray's wonder try, for a second row, was a prime example: "Well, that was my fault. I just made a really poor decision. I should have taken Gray and forced him to make a pass.
"I thought, 'Here's a second row, he's not used to being in this situation, he's going to look for his winger straight away'. That was my fault.
"Against France, with (Wesley) Fofana, it was different. He had two players I thought were coming under for a switch. I stood off a little. Once he made his decision to go for it, I was too late getting to him."
Kearney is honest when he makes a mistake on the field and honest when he doesn't make one off it.