Leinster’s Rob Kearney eager for another shot at ‘beatable’ Toulon
Last Sunday’s defeat to Toulon has placed Leinster on the brink of a pool stage exit from the European Rugby Champions Cup, but returning Blues full-back Rob Kearney is pleased that they have an opportunity to renew acquaintances with the Top 14 giants at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.
Kearney featured in the province’s starting line-up for the first time this season away to the defending champions, and although he is aware of the pros and cons that come with facing Toulon in back-to-back encounters, he is hopeful they can finally get the better of their star-studded opponents.
“You know, it is tough. It is difficult, they’re three times reigning European champions. Chances are we are out of Europe. But it’s nice to get another crack at them and go again,” Kearney remarked in Leinster HQ yesterday.
Sunday’s 24-9 reversal was Leinster’s third loss in as many seasons to Toulon, and with just one win to their name in Pool 5, Bernard Laporte’s men will be seeking to maintain their winning form.
Kearney believes that their French counterparts are beatable, but in a similar vein to the All Blacks at international level, defeating them is still an extremely difficult task.
“We play the All Blacks all our life as Ireland, and we still haven’t beaten them. We do need to beat them, they are beatable. But they are hard to beat at the same time. I mean, you can go 15 or 20 phases against them and they will just back one of their poachers, just to get over a ball and steal.
“But there are opportunities against them, and there will be more this weekend. We just need to take them. We did create a couple at the weekend. There were pictures where we could have been a bit more expansive at times.”
Since returning to their provinces in the wake of the disappointing quarter-final exit to Argentina, there has been a lot of talk about a potential World Cup hangover with the Irish players, considering a number of the front-line stars have struggled to rediscover their very best form.
Kearney acknowledges it can be a struggle when you are not in a winning team, but he was also quick to dismiss the notion of a World Cup hangover.
“It is a struggle when you’re not winning. When you win games and you’re playing well, you want to see here on a Monday morning. The lads are bouncing in here, having the craic. It’s not the same after a loss when you’ve been beaten away.
“There is no World Cup hangover. Any team that was not New Zealand in the World Cup could argue that they have a hangover. That’s an excuse. It’s not something that we, as players, are talking about. It was difficult coming back into the provinces. But, every country had to do that.”
Kearney — who was replaced by his brother Dave for the final 18 minutes against Toulon — emerged unscathed from Sunday’s game, but as scrum coach John Fogarty revealed yesterday, Isaac Boss and Richardt Strauss will be monitored carefully before a decision is made on their availability for Saturday.
“Bossy has a bit of tightness [in his hamstring], so he’s being monitored through the week. He mightn’t be on the field today, so he’s going to be looked at through the week.
“He [Strauss] took a dunt off [Samu] Manoa. He was tackling Manoa and took a nice crack. He gets up after that and the plan was to take him off and on bulk bring the front-rows onto the field.
“He came off and he presented fine. As a precaution, we did a HIA [Head Injury Assessment] and he passed the HIA in the ground that day. He presented yesterday at medicals with nothing. He feels fine, he passed his HIA on game day. He’s not presenting with any symptoms, so he’s fine,” Fogarty added.