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Kearney is eager to avoid a repeat of 2007 struggles

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 19/09/2015

Ireland's Rob Kearney
Ireland's Rob Kearney

Rob Kearney says Ireland must match the emotion of their Canadian opponents when they begin their World Cup campaign at the Millennium Stadium this afternoon.

The squad have even watched footage of the 2007 scares against Namibia and Georgia as a reminder of just what can go wrong if a flat performance is put in.

While Rory Best, Paul O'Connell and Eoin Reddan are the only current squad members who were part of the dismal tournament eight years ago, the reminder is seared into the consciousness of Irish rugby fans with Kearney revealing that it has also been on the minds of Joe Schmidt's men.

"I think (the lesson) was pretty self-explanatory," he said yesterday. "We've watched a lot of clips from four and eight years ago, just to show us that if we're not switched on this is what teams can do.

"I think emotion counts for a huge amount at World Cups. We saw that eight years ago with the Namibians and the Georgians.

"Everyone expected that we'd wipe the floor with them and we saw a few clips of that game recently and the emotion they brought and the physicality was enormous.

"One thing with rugby, more so than other sports, if you bring a massive edge and a huge amount of physicality, you'll be right in the game.

"As soon as you start disrespecting the opposition and not preparing the exact same way as you would for every game, you stop being true to yourself.

"It might just be margins of a couple of per cent but at this level it's those times that stand out and you'll be judged on that."

Kearney is fit again to start at full-back today - a knee injury prevented him appearing in the warm-up defeat to England at Twickenham two weeks ago - but it was never a knock he feared would endanger his involvement.

"It was just a small knock on the Wednesday or Thursday and then Joe held me off for another week," he said. "I was never worried about it.

"It wasn't great timing but it could have been worse. It's just great to be back from it now and to be able to participate in the opening game."

For Kearney this is a second World Cup but his younger brother Dave will be making his tournament bow, starting on the wing after a hugely impressive pre-season saw him edge out the likes of Andrew Trimble for a squad place.

The elder Kearney reflected: "It's a massive amount of pride for me, especially being the older brother.

"I'm not overly surprised. I've always had a huge amount of confidence in his ability, I knew that he was in great shape and that if he got his opportunity he'd take it.

"I never considered him to be outside the group of 31 or 45, in my mind he was always going to be in there.

"There's a massive amount of competition, some superb wingers and back three players have been left out.

"He wasn't confident until selection. But he had done the work, he got his opportunities and took them."

That seizing of the moment came after a summer break spent with the showpiece tournament in mind.

"The two of us made a conscious effort that we wanted to come back in good shape and not spend those first three or four weeks of pre-season trying to chase things," he added.

"It was great to have each other. Some days I wouldn't have necessarily been up for it and he'd drive me along for a run and it's definitely paid off for him. He's playing the rugby of his life so hopefully I can follow him now."

Seasoned rugby fans and those on the tournament bandwagon will be unfamiliar with some members of Canada's squad, but that can hardly be said of Kieran Crowley's wingers

DTH Van der Merwe, Scarlets' new signing who won the PRO12 with Glasgow last season, and Ospreys' Jeff Hasler will be bearing down the touchlines and Kearney is aware that the twin threat will need to be monitored by Ireland's back three.

"I think their wingers are the two guys who have been talked up before the tournament and this week," he said.

"(They're) two quite different players.

"Hassler is a much more combative, strong, powerful runner, you need to get your bite on him and then DTH just pops up everywhere around the fringes of rucks, mauls, even off set plays. They use him quite a bit.

"We'll need to be keeping a close eye on them."

Fail to do so and Ireland squads eight years hence may just be pouring over the footage.

Belfast Telegraph

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