Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Gatland's visit helps to lift the Irish mood

The accelerating interest in the upcoming Lions Tour is unsurprising this week given the presence of Warren Gatland at Ireland's Carton House base on Tuesday.

The Lions coach cut an unmistakeable figure at the team's training session in the morning and quiet though he was at the afternoon's squad meeting his red jacket made it impossible not to be cognisant of his presence.

"Yes, it's hard not to see the coach of the Lions over on the sideline watching training," acknowledged Kearney.

"I would say that it upped guys' concentration levels by a few percent certanly. But I don't think that's a bad reflection on us at all because it is a big deal to have him around the camp. And sometimes it's good to have those little things to sharpen the mind."

Ireland's Six Nations campaign has vacillated wildly from the sublime of the Millenium Stadium on opening day to the ridiculous of Murrayfield when they blew 76% possession to lose to an extremely ordinary Scotland side.

The fear for the players on an individual level is that the repercussions of their results and, more importantly, performances will have a negative impact on their chances of selection in Gatland's squad for the tour to Australia.

"The Six Nations is a big shop window for the Lions certainly. And the team that wins the Championship usually has the biggest representation.

"We did four years ago. But the players also realise that the (Lions) squad will be picked on guys' performances over the last year.

"You do keep an eye on how other fellas are going alright. Of course you do. Anyone who tells you otherwise is, I would suggest, telling you fibs!

"But it's a dangerous game to play. You have to focus on the now and your country and what's in front of you," added Kearney.

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