This was Ireland’s wake-up call, admits Rob Kearney

All good things come to an end and for Rob Kearney, losing for the first time in 15 months and 13 Tests may be no bad thing for a core of this Ireland squad so accustomed to winning.

Second row James Ryan, for one, will have woken on Sunday now knowing exactly what defeat tastes like after a remarkable start to his professional career of 23 straight wins with Leinster and Ireland.

And it is not just the youngsters in the camp who received a wake-up call. Veteran full-back Kearney is one of a number of senior Ireland squad members for whom Saturday’s high-octane 18-9 reverse to Australia in Brisbane represented a first defeat of the season at both provincial and Test level.

Kearney, 32, has experienced plenty of sporting highs in his glittering career, this year alone winning the Grand Slam for the second time and a third European Cup with Leinster. 

How players react to losing a big game is the next challenge, particularly with a Test series on the line this Saturday in Melbourne.

“It shows how difficult it is to go 12 games unbeaten. We are back to zero now,” Kearney said. 

“We have got to go again, some guys won’t have experienced a Test match like that, that is for sure.”

“And you know, that is what these summer tours are about, playing these great teams and ultimately the World Cup is our goal and you have got to get the very best out of yourself when you play the best from around the world.”

The fixes required for next weekend’s second Test at AAMI Park did not need too much forensic investigation from Kearney, who said: “We probably coughed up too much ball.

“(David) Pocock and (Michael) Hooper got a few turnovers and any time they are heavily involved in a game like that, Australia generally come out on top. So we have to probably be a little more clinical than them at the breakdown, just play a little bit more pressure rugby, so that when we get down into their half, or their 22, we must be putting scores away.”

Aside from losing at Suncorp Stadium, Ireland were also kept tryless by the Wallabies, outscored by two tries to nil, but Kearney believes there is more to come from the tourists’ attack.

“We had some opportunities to get outside them a few times, a couple of times in the first half, off first phase, we managed to get the width.

“Defensively, their first four (in the line) seemed to be up and in and they hit us as hard as they could. We will review the footage and will be working considerably hard over the next few days to come up with more set plays and a game-plan for next Saturday.”

Such was the high tempo of the game that Kearney admitted to fatigue-related lapses in his performance in the middle of the contest.

“It was just concentration. I was just going through six or seven minutes where the intensity was off the charts and fatigue makes cowards of us all sometimes.”

Outside centre Robbie Henshaw also confessed to defensive errors as the Wallabies scored a try in either half, from Bernard Foley and Pocock. 

“I think defensively we need to be better. There were a number of missed tackles, myself included. They got some good ball in the air and they beat us in the air a few times early on which led to them getting in behind us. I think we need to be more clinical.”

Pointing to being second best at the breakdown, Henshaw added: “We need to be better than that. We can definitely turn it around. The lads are going to be eager to get back on the training paddock and right the wrongs. We’re frustrated with how it went but there will be a positivity in the camp that we can be way better. It’s win or bust.”



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