No place for cheating in the game, warns Irish star Kearney

LIONS, Ireland and Leinster full-back Rob Kearney last night admitted he would be “appalled” if he was asked to cheat to achieve success on the rugby field.

Kearney was responding to questions in the wake of hefty suspensions imposed on Harlequins by the European Rugby Cup (ERC) and IRB following investigations into an incident in the Heineken Cup clash with Leinster last April when wing Tom Williams faked a blood injury to allow fly-half Nick Evans to return to the field.

Coach Dean Richards, a former policeman and renowned for his achievements as a player with Leicester and England, resigned as coach last week and late on Monday night was banned from coaching for three years having admitted his guilt at a 14-hour independent committee meeting.

Physiotherapist Steph Brennan was handed a two-year ban for his role in the scandal while Williams had his original 12-month suspension reduced to four months after implicating Richards and Brennan.

In their statement on Monday night, ERC pointed out that “during the course of the hearing, it was disclosed that there had been four previous occasions in non ERC-tournaments in which Richards and Brennan had fabricated a wound or blood injury”.

Asked if he would refuse to cheat if requested to do so by a coach, Kearney replied: “That’s a very difficult thing to do. Your coach is your boss and if you disobey your boss, there’s a chance you might never get picked again. If Tom Williams had said ‘no’ and Harlequins lost, the blame could have been put on him. It’s a difficult situation for the player. I’d never like to find myself in a position like that and why I say hopefully there will never be any more of those antics in the sport.”

So how conscious were Kearney and his teammates of all the controversy during the game?

“When you’re out there, you’re fully focused on the game and it was something I wasn’t aware of at all,” said Kearney. “There was little enough talk about it afterwards in the dressing room because I think everyone was delighted that we had won. Obviously, if we had lost, it would have been a completely different story. We didn’t know anything about this kind of thing and even if we did, it’s not the sort of thing players would discuss because it’s completely out of our hands and doesn’t affect how we play or our performance.

“You probably would have a little bit of sympathy for the player but at the same time, everyone makes their own decision and I’m sure there were a couple of people at fault and hopefully it’s something that doesn’t get too much into the game. The ban on Dean Richards is a long one but I don’t think there’s room in the game for things like that. You’d hate for teams to cheat in some way to win.”

Kearney is in the University of Limerick with his Irish teammates for a three-day pre-season session with the plaudits for his magnificent performances in the Test series in South Africa still ringing in his ears. He is now working on blocking out all the praise that has been lavished on him. He accepts that his confidence levels are higher as a result of how favourably things went on tour and in spite of all the success he enjoyed with Ireland and Leinster last season, is taking nothing for granted.

“We got a lot of monkeys off our backs and the consensus is that we’re excited and looking forward to the new campaign,” he reasoned.

“There’s no reason why we can’t improve and kick on.”

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