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Six Nations: Kearney can’t wait to get stuck into English

By Niall Crozier

Rob Kearney is far too clever a man to be drawn into the murky waters of age-old Anglo-Irish antipathy.

But the UCD Arts graduate and full-back in the 2009 British and Irish Lions Test team admits that past events, real or imagined, invariably add spice to England versus Ireland fixtures.

Voltaire famously described history as being “nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes”.

But as with their Celtic cousins in Scotland and Wales, the Irish are not averse to welding perceived fact and folklore into a useful weapon to be wielded in battle against the English.

The fact that current relations between Ireland and England are as good as at any time in the past 900 years notwithstanding, there is still a huge rivalry.

Dundalk-born Kearney believes that can be beneficial.

“It will still be there in 50 years’ time. It’s something we have built into us as Irish people and it is important to try and use that to our advantage this weekend,” he says.

It’s not something about which the Irish players talk; it’s not a case of downtrodden Paddies gathering in conspiratorial huddles to plot the demise of their cruel despot, as Kearney explains.

“No, it is never really spoken about at all. But like I say, it is something that is instilled in us a little bit and maybe sometimes things don’t need to be said.

“That is not to say there’s not rivalry against all the other teams because there is, but I just think there is something about the English fixtures that just spices things up a little bit more.”

When pressed on the subject it transpires that beating England at Twickenham is not even the result which would give Kearney most pleasure; victory over France in Paris is top of his things-I-want-to-achieve Six Nations list.

“To be honest, given the history, if there was one fixture I wanted to win that would be it,” he reveals.

But that opens up another very fresh can of worms. Ireland drew 17-17 at Stade de France on March 4. A week later England went to Paris and won 24-22. Was he surprised at that result?

“I was, yeah,” he replies. “You know, France are a difficult team to beat away, especially after their draw to us the week before and they were starting to build a little bit of momentum, going into their third week in a row.

“I thought they’d play a little bit better, but that’s taking nothing away from England’s performance — I thought they played really well, they took their opportunities well and to go 14 up after 20-25 minutes is no mean feat away in Paris. I thought they did really well.”

The fact that Ireland’s interval lead was 17-6 whereas England turned round 14-6 to the good simply adds grist to the mill by virtue of the fact that Stuart Lancaster’s men now are one point better off in the Six Nations table as a result.

“They just managed to score in the second half and we didn’t and I think that’s what, ultimately, our draw came down to - a lack of points in the second half.”

Kearney missed out on Ireland’s 24-8 Grand Slam-wrecking victory over England last March.

So has his appetite for Saturday’s showdown been heightened by the fact that he missed that one?

“I think so. I wouldn’t say so much hunger because you wouldn’t like to think your hunger varies from one game to another, but certainly your excitement does and I’m a lot more excited by this weekend because I think England is the one clash we all love and it is the one, being Irish, you get excited for,” he admits.

“I suppose (the fact) that it is on St Patrick’s Day just adds a little more spice to it. I would like to think the hunger does not alter too much but the excitement, surely.”

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