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Kearney And Leinster Ready For ‘Massive Challenge’

Kearney And Leinster Ready For ‘Massive Challenge’

The big games are coming thick and fast now as both the domestic and European seasons gather pace. Rob Kearney, who switches from the left wing to full-back for Leinster’s Magners League visit to the Ospreys tonight, gives his opinion ahead of the Liberty Stadium encounter.

Despite an error which led to Toulouse’s second try, Kearney emerged with a good deal of credit from last Sunday’s Heineken Cup defeat to the French giants.

In what was his 50th appearance for Leinster since he made his bow against the Ospreys in September 2005, the 21-year-old was solid in defence and attacked with vigour against top class opposition.

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But turning his attention to tonight’s return to Magners League action, Kearney said: “No one is more determined than the players and the coaching staff to get our performance right (against the Ospreys). We set the highest standards for ourselves and, to be honest, the short five-day turnaround is the perfect medicine to get back on the horse and hopefully back to winning ways.

“Okay, there are bumps and bruises and we have lost a few players through injury, but everybody is looking forward to the game.

“That’s always the way whenever you put on the Leinster shirt. There are places up for grabs and once the warm-up begins, the bumps and bruises tend to disappear and you just get on with the task in hand.”

Kearney was back in Clongowes Wood College when Leinster last won in Swansea. Back in October 2002, Leinster claimed a 51-10 Heineken Cup victory over Swansea RFC at St. Helen’s.

Since then and the formation of the Ospreys, Leinster have managed to win at the Gnoll, but they were beaten 11-3 at St. Helen’s in 2004 and suffered successive defeats against the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium – 22-20 two years ago and 19-17 earlier this year.

Kearney added: “The Ospreys have fantastic strength in depth but they will be missing a few players through international commitments. Irrespective of that, it’s no secret how difficult it is to win in Wales.

“Our form in the Magners League of late has been good and we got an excellent win away in Cardiff earlier this season, so we will take belief going into this week’s game.

“Sunday’s defeat in Toulouse came down as much to individual errors as opposed to anything else. Our concentration wasn’t as good as it had been the previous week, but we’re all really looking forward to the challenge against an excellent Ospreys side.

“I made my senior debut for Leinster at the Liberty Stadium two years ago and what I remember from the game was that it was a huge step up at the time, physically. I took a few early blows and they scored a try from a block down kick from me, which was a huge blow. But I recovered and was pleased to get on the score sheet.

“It was the opening game of the season and the game was played in front of a big crowd, which was really exciting. It’s a fantastic stadium to play in.”

Kearney might just be the player to inspire Leinster to bounce back from their European disappointment.

He has scored three tries in his three outings to date against the Ospreys, including a brace in last January’s 45-22 romp at Donnybrook, and believes the men in blue can rise to the challenge in Swansea.

“This year has been different to the last twp years in that we have a smaller, closer-nit squad. All of the players are capable of stepping up and putting in a performance, so there will be no complacency. You can’t when the squad is as competitive as ours is,” admitted the Ireland international.

“Friday is another massive challenge for us – both mentally and physically – after Sunday night’s game. As a squad we are determined to go over there, cut down on our errors and put in an improved performance. We’re relishing the opportunity.”