Friday 23 March 2018

We love beating English: Kearney

BALANCE is very important to Ireland full-back Rob Kearney.

He will need it to slalom through England's defence and launch, like a missile, into the air to gather the high ones that will come down from the skies over Twickenham, hoping to return to earth with the ball in hand and enough security underfoot to set off.

"England is the match we all love. It is the one, being Irish, which you get excited for and, I suppose, being on St Patrick's Day will add a little more spice to it," admitted Kearney.

"They are a big physical side and they like to take teams on up front. If we can control them and limit the tries from the Ashtons and Fodens, we will be in good shape."

Next to France away, England anywhere is probably every Irish player's idea of the one they want to win.

"It is a rivalry that will be there in 50 years time," added Kearney.

"It is something we have probably built into us as Irish people. It is important to try and use that to our benefit this weekend. It's never spoken about. It is instilled in us."

In recent times, there have been a lot of good things said about Kearney. The plaudits have come his way again. The British & Irish Lion of 2009 is back. He is free from injury and soaring with confidence.

"I try not to pay too much attention to the negative stuff I read. You have to do the same, both sides. If there are compliments that might go a bit overboard, then it is important not to take them on too. It is about getting a balance," he said.

Kearney is on an upward curve again. The Irish backline is too.

He just wants to see more: "A lot of your preparation is based on how they defend first phase.

"You get a picture of exactly how they are going to defend and you come up with your set-piece moves, specifically for that type of defence. That is one area we probably have not caused enough damage in."

Since the World Cup, Alan Gaffney has left. Les Kiss has had to split his time between attack and defence. Ireland have responded by scoring 13 tries, four more than the next nearest, Wales, who are going for the Grand Slam.

"We lost the Welsh game with a poor defensive display and France kicked more penalties than we did. Defence and discipline are the two shortfalls of this Six Nations," said Kearney.

Ireland have won seven of the last eight against England in this competition. It is a period of domination never before accomplished by the men in green through the transition from Eddie O'Sullivan's tenure into Declan Kidney's.

"It indicates that you're a better side than them. I would like to think that trend will continue to happen. They are outdoing themselves from the expectations perceived from them coming into the competition."

England were prey turned predator in Paris, hitting France with two early tries and using their imposing defence and strong-arm tactics up front to clamp down on their hosts.

"They are an inexperienced side. You could say they have an inexperienced coaching panel as well. That victory last weekend does showcase what they can offer," he added.

Ireland's Six Nations season was saved last year by savaging England's Grand Slam hopes in Dublin.

"That was a big victory for us last year. We were at home. It was the final day of the competition. We probably hadn't done as well as we should have in the Six Nations. It was an important win," he said.

Another one would do nicely on Saturday.

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