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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Rob Kearney: 'We were made work hard for the win'

Ireland's fullback Rob Kearney is tackled by Italy's wing Luke McLean (L) during the Six Nations International Rugby Union match between Italy and Ireland at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on February 7, 2015
Ireland's fullback Rob Kearney is tackled by Italy's wing Luke McLean (L) during the Six Nations International Rugby Union match between Italy and Ireland at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on February 7, 2015

Ireland full-back Rob Kearney admitted his side's 26-3 win over Italy was a "slog" - but said that was exactly how they expected the match to be.

While the 2015 RBS 6 Nations was kicked off in thrilling fashion on Friday night by England's win over Wales, Saturday's encounter at the Stadio Olimpico was more a battle of attrition as defending champions Ireland laboured to victory.

Joe Schmidt's men eventually prevailed in Rome through second-half tries from Conor Murray and Tommy O'Donnell when Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini was in the sin-bin, but while the clash may not have been the best spectacle, Kearney insisted Ireland never expected it to be easy.

He told BBC1: "It was a slog, but I don't know if it was that frustrating. Any time you come to Rome that's exactly what you're expecting - a slog.

"We knew that if we just kept chipping away and trying to build some phases that eventually we would break them down."

Ireland suffered a blow minutes before kick-off when flanker Sean O'Brien was forced to pull out of the starting line-up, nursing his hamstring.

The injury-plagued 27-year-old was poised to make his first Test appearance since November 2013 and Kearney said it was a "massive disappointment" for his Leinster team-mate to miss out.

Kearney said: "It was a bit of a shock for us just before kick-off but we prepped really well and the substitutes train hard during the week and they come in.

"It didn't move us off our groove too much but it's a massive disappointment for him, he's worked so hard to get back here."

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