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Rob's heart beats Blue

ROB KEARNEY has given his clearest indication yet that he won't be joining Jonathan Sexton on the list of emigrants to leave Ireland in the summer.

"The last (contract) time there were options there. If I went looking this time, there would probably be options too," he said.

"When you're with a club you love, you're playing with your colleagues and friends, you are up there winning trophies and being competitive, it is very difficult to understand why you would want to leave.

"Yeah, the thought has been there. But I've never really had any reason to really want to leave," said Kearney, in a note of optimism that will cheer Leinster supporters.

The Ireland full-back's representatives, his father David and agent Dave McHugh, are involved in an ongoing process to negotiate the best outcome possible for Kearney, arguably Europe's finest full-back.

The Louthman was not shy about stating his preference for an earlier initiation and conclusion to contract discussions.

"I was always very keen to get it sorted before the competition," he said. "It is a difficult enough place to be in when you are trying to determine your future and prepare for the biggest competition of the year as well.

"It is not ideal that they always fall around this time. Certainly, from my perspective, I have parked that a little bit and my sole focus is on performance.

"It has to be because if you get caught up in both, they're both going to suffer. You've got to choose one, give it all your attention.

"From my perspective, I would like to think we are all working towards the same goal. It is Ireland winning trophies. You need to do what you can to enhance that happening.

"If players don't really want to be getting involved in these discussions during the Six Nations, well then they shouldn't really be happening.

"How players feel, their state of mind going out onto the field, has to take priority. But it has been like that for years, so I can't see it changing a huge amount in the future."

Kearney was also eager to dispel the notion out there in the ether that the loss of Sexton equates to the loss of Leinster as a European force.

"You want the best players playing for your team, your province. This decision will affect Leinster. By no means is it the end of Leinster. Will we lose out competitiveness? No. I have no doubt we will overcome it," he said.

Kearney was also quick to defend his friend Sexton: "You never like using the word selfish. But you have to look out for yourself some of the time and you've got to make decisions that are best for you.

"It might not always necessarily be financially. But you do have to make decisions based on what you think is going to be best for you down the line."

As Sexton moves on, Kearney looks like staying put.

Kearney on... Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy

"They are very skilful. They've got out-and-out pace.

"That is what you need in your back-three guys, especially the way the modern game is going.

"With an injection of youth comes energy. There is a fearlessness that comes with that, too.

"That is always refreshing to watch and to play alongside. It is infectious.

"They bring a lot to the table and I am sure we will see a lot of that throughout the campaign."