Rob Kearney has called on Ireland to finish the RBS 6 Nations campaign in style with a strong second half in Italy to dispel any notion the Irish are just a 40-minute team.
Ireland’s championship may have been blighted by injuries but it is the wasted scoring opportunities that have most frustrated the players, particularly in the second half of matches when Declan Kidney’s side have scored just three points beyond the 50-minute mark, a 58th-minute Ronan O’Gara penalty against England, in four games.
Last weekend’s 13-13 draw with France, when Ireland’s scores dried up in the 32nd minute, highlighted the deficiency, despite the result ending a two-game losing streak, and Kearney said a big second 40 minutes in Rome was top of the agenda.
“I wouldn’t so much call it a worry. It’s more just a trend that’s come through throughout the campaign. I don’t think as a team that our mindset is changing when we do go out for that 40 minutes. It’s not as if we’re getting very defensive and we’re losing the attacking mindset that we want to play rugby.
“I do agree we need a big second 40 minutes this weekend regardless of what the score is. For ourselves and as a team we need to prove that we’re not a 40-minute team... It’s a huge pattern. That’s why we need a big second 40 this week. It’s not something we’ve spoken a huge amount about but everyone knows it.
“From our perspective it’s just important that after the break at half-time we take to the field still looking to play rugby. And still striving to get scores, because it is frustrating.
“Even in that second 40 minutes there wasn’t a huge amount of opportunities for us. So hopefully this week it will be different for us.”
Having a happy squad is big help in that regard, with Kearney showing no signs of cabin fever after eight weeks in camp at Carton House. Ireland’s results have not reflected that but Kearney points to the narrow margins that separate the Grand Slam 2009 team from this year’s.
“I’ve been in camps before and the last game comes and it’s like, ‘great, I can’t wait to get out of here’. But that’s honestly not the case this time and I think there’s been a lot of changes, a lot of new guys have come in and there has been a new, dynamic atmosphere so I’ve enjoyed this camp. Everyone seems happy. Could be a lot happier if we were winning, obviously, but there’s not a real, dull, dark atmosphere and I think that’s important. I think the Grand Slam four years ago was just one where everything seemed to go so perfectly, where we didn’t have any one injury. Okay we were in a lot of tight games but we got bounces of the ball, games went for us, games that we could have very easily have lost but we didn’t. So it shows as well the sort of contrasts that we’re dealing with in terms of how different competitions can go by you.”
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