Dave Kearney doesn’t deny it. Sitting out Leinster’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final loss to La Rochelle at the start of the month was hard to swallow for an experienced 31-year old who has been producing some of the best form of his career.
The Louth man hasn’t played this much rugby for the province in seven years and is just two tries short of matching his highest ever points total, posted last season when he bagged 12 in a scarcely credible 13 games.
When Leo Cullen revealed his hand for the game in France, though, it was Jordan Larmour and James Lowe occupying the wing berths. Rory O’Loughlin’s greater versatility swung the vote for him to make the bench.
“I was pretty gutted. Obviously frustrated and disappointed not to be involved. Personally I thought I had done enough to be playing and to get a spot. We all want to play the big games, the quarter-finals and semi-finals of Europe.
“Yeah, it’s great that I’ve played lots of games but you ultimately want to play in the big ones, which didn’t happen.
Kearney was back in the XV for last week’s win in Connacht and starts again this evening, when an Ulster side showing a dozen changes from their loss last time out away to Munster pitches up at the RDS for what looks like a long night.
Leinster have named a strong side that carries the potential to double up on the 50 points recorded in the Sportsground last week, the most notable inclusion that of Caelan Doris who hasn’t played since the end of January due to concussion and calf issues.
If Kearney takes to the field today aiming to prove a point, then he will hardly be alone. Garry Ringrose and James Ryan are others on duty and both will know they are still in Warren Gatland’s line of sight despite their omissions from the touring Lions squad.
“As we all know, a lot can happen between now and then,” said Kearney. “Unfortunately, one or two lads could pick up an injury before the end of the season and rule themselves out of the tour, so there’s always a chance for lads who could be called up between now and then.”
Leinster’s weekend will be done and dusted by the time old boy Rob Kearney lines up for Western Force in their inaugural Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season opener against the visiting Chiefs at HBF Park tomorrow night.
The 35-year old full-back missed the back end of the Force’s Super Rugby AU campaign, which ended with a semi-final loss to the Brumbies late last month because of a hip problem. But it doesn’t seem to have soured the experience according to his younger brother.
“Obviously, it’s different, very different from the atmosphere here and the general set-up.
“What a great time for him to do it. He’s going over to New Zealand for, I think, three to five weeks which will obviously be pretty tough. They’re going to play all the Kiwi teams. Again, another great experience for him but obviously it will be tough enough at the same time.”