LEINSTER coach Joe Schmidt has predicted a huge future for Leinster’s Rob Kearney, who celebrates his 100th cap for the province against Edinburgh in Murrayfield tonight.
Schmidt has a significant handle on Kearney’s ability having watched him for Leinster, Ireland and the Lions but admits he hasn’t been able to see the full picture quite yet.
However, he said the 24-year-old becoming Leinster’s 17th centurion at such a young age was “a great achievement.”
“He’s a genuine athlete as well as a highly skilled player,” said Schmidt. “(Kearney) being back on the field for us on Saturday night (last) was a real positive and I think that he’ll get more and more comfortable and hopefully add to our game.”
Of even more importance to the embattled Schmidt, however, is the return of Brian O’Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton to add stability to a side that has suffered embarrassment by losing two of their opening three fixtures, not least the defeat at Treviso last week.
In the pack, skipper Shane Jennings forms a back-row partnership with Dominic Ryan and Stephen Keogh, who starts at number eight, while second-row Devin Toner also makes his seasonal debut. Isaac Boss, Jamie Heaslip and Cian Healy are all named among the replacements in a squad from which Sean O’Brien and Nathan Hines are excluded, both rested according to official sources.
O’Brien probably needs a rest more than Hines, having had to endure the trauma of facing into a disciplinary probe earlier this week, one that ended in him being found not guilty of an alleged eye-contact offence in the loss to Treviso.
Schmidt will be desperate for a big improvement from his side on the road but acknowledges it will be difficult in Edinburgh. “They have yet to win and clearly will be desperate to secure one; on the road it tends to be tough and Edinburgh have a quality team across the board.”
Schmidt’s early impression of the Magners League is that it is going to be tough. “There’s no team that you can take for granted for sure. Look at what has happened; it was great for Connacht to get their first away win in two-and-a-half years (at Glasgow) and they were very unlucky against the Scarlets the previous week.
“The Scarlets lost away to Treviso on week one, but now they’re in third place; we’d like to follow their lead.”
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