ROB KEARNEY CONFESSED he feared the worst when French forward Damien Chouly dived over for a last-gasp score that would have denied Ireland a Six Nations championship. The Irish full-back was convinced Chouly’s score was legitimate and was about to deny his side of a win they so desperately craved.
The pain of a stoppage time defeat to New Zealand was fresh in Kearney’s mind as video replays looped around Stade de France on Saturday evening before a decision finally brought relief, and a 22-20 win, to Ireland.
“I was sure that it was a try,” Kearney admitted this morning on Today FM. “I didn’t know it was a forward pass. I suppose you’re just thinking ‘Christ, here we go again’. It would have been a really tough one to take and to try and come back from but we were very unlucky against the All Blacks. You deserve a bit of luck sometimes and we got a little bit of luck on the day.”
The Kearneys watched England run up a cricket score on Italy during the afternoon kick-off and Rob admitted he was screaming at the television. “Italy played pretty poorly,” he said. “Even when time was up, 80 minutes were up, the Italians were still playing and then they turned over the ball and England scored a try. Had that been the difference, the Italians would not have been overly popular in Ireland this week.”
During the game, Kearney remarked that he did well to only receive one hefty tackle from 18st French centre Mathieu Bastareaud ‘but Jonny [Sexton] got the brunt of it’. Ray D’Arcy, the show’s host, bravely read out a text to the fullback that asked the reasons for his speculative garryowen in the final minutes that gave France possession. Kearney replied:
I was last man. They missed touch; I was in my own half and there was a French guy coming towards me. If he had’ve tackled me and turned me over that’s a penalty and three points; they win the game. But he actually came quicker on top of me than I’d expected so I couldn’t kick long as he could’ve charged it down. I had to kick high and it probably didn’t go as far as I’d want.”
The TMO drama followed some 60 seconds later but Ireland survived the countless replays and a dodgy scrum to see out a famous victory and capture the Six Nations. Dave Kearney was on the Parisian pitch from start to finish. Speaking to TV3 this morning, the winger admitted, “It was pretty special and nerve-wrecking at the same time, the last 10 minutes obviously was pretty difficult to watch.”
Kearney was delighted to have been part of a winning Ireland team that delivered a fitting send-off for Brian, the country’s highest capped player. He said, “It’s going to be pretty difficult to fill boots of man like. He’s been unbelievable for the last 12, 13 years of his career. I think on and off the pitch as well, for me growing up as a player and coming into the academy at a young age, to have someone like him to play inside you has been a real important part of my development as a player.”
Kearney has held down a spot on the left wing for the last six Tests and is anticipating a battle royale with Simon Zebo and Keith Earls — two contenders for his 11 jersey — when Leinster meet Munster on 29 March at the Aviva Stadium.
“There is no better way to get back into playing with your province,” he said. “I think Munster versus Leinster games are always so competitive and always so tough, it’s nearly like you’re playing at international level again because they’re so physical.”
Like rugby? Follow TheScore.ie’s dedicated Twitter account @rugby_ie >