Rob Kearney has revealed how the Ireland squad faced up to the ghosts of Ireland’s World Cup past to remind them of the dangers of underestimating so-called minnows.
Ireland’s Pool D campaign kicks off in the Millennium Stadium this afternoon (2:30pm) against Canada, ranked 18 in the World Rugby rankings and the tournament’s third-lowest rated team.
The bookmakers have Joe Schmidt’s side as 1/500 certainties to open up with victory against a team sprinkled with amateurs but Ireland have faced similar opposition in the past and not enjoyed the experience, particularly at the 2007 World Cup when both Namibia and Georgia gave them a real scare.
Those uncomfortable meetings have been used by the Irish management in their preparations for today’s game with the players shown a series of video clips to remind them that however lowly the rank of the team they face they can be matched for passion and aggression.
“I think emotion counts for a huge amount at World Cups,” full-back Kearney said. “We saw that eight years ago with the Namibians and the Georgians.
“Everyone expected that we’d wipe the floor with them and we saw a few clips of that (Georgia) game recently and the emotion that they brought to that game and the physicality was enormous. One thing with rugby, more so than with other sports, if you bring a massive edge and a huge amount of physicality, you’ll be right in the game.
Asked what message the Ireland coaches were trying to get across, Kearney added: “I think it was pretty self-explanatory. We’ve watched a lot of clips from four years ago and then those few matches from eight years ago, just to show to us that if we’re not switched on this is what teams can do.”
Accordingly, Kearney, who did not make Eddie O’Sullivan’s 2007 squad but was a regular for Declan Kidney four years later in New Zealand, said he was preparing to face Canada with the same diligence he would any opposition.
“As soon as you start disrespecting the opposition and not preparing the exact same way as you would for every game you stop being true to yourself. That’s where you just get those little slips or cracks in performances. It might just be margins a of a couple of per cent but at this level it’s those times that stand out and you’ll be judged on that.”
Kearney, 29, also spoke of the honour of playing alongside 26-year-old brother Dave, named on the wing in a back three also featuring Keith Earls, having both worked hard during the summer to make an instant impact in Ireland’s pre-season camp.
“It’s a massive amount of pride for me, especially being the older brother a little bit more. But I’m not overly surprised. I’ve always had a huge amount of confidence in his ability, I knew that he was in great shape coming back and that if he got his opportunity that he’d take it.
“I think it was great to have each other. Some days I wouldn’t have necessarily been up for it, I just wanted to chill by the pool and he’d drive me along for a run or whatever.
“It was good. The two of us made a conscious effort that we wanted to come back in really good shape and not spend those first three or four weeks of pre-season trying to chase things.
“And it’s definitely paid off for him, he’s playing the rugby of his life. So hopefully I can follow him now.”
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