It was a special day for Rob and Dave Kearney in Cardiff last Saturday. As well as Dave making his Rugby World Cup debut against Canada, the pair scored tries in the same Test match for the first time.
Dave Kearney timed his challenge for a Rugby World Cup place to perfection, forcing his way back into the Ireland team after missing a large chunk of last season with a cruciate ligament tear. Damage to his AC joint against Wasps in January was another setback.
However, a run of games with Leinster in the spring, coupled with a punishing pre-season regime, had him in peak condition come August. His older brother Rob saw up close just how hard he worked to make the cut for the World Cup and he is understandably delighted to have him back in the green jersey.
“I’m really happy to see him get what he deserves. I think, and I might be being a little bit biased being his brother, but he was always very much part of the team and had it not been for that injury that he picked up against Wasps – in January – I think he might well have featured in the Six Nations,” said the 64-times capped full-back.
“And I think his performances in the Six Nations two years ago were very, very good. So I’m delighted he’s gotten his opportunity given the competition for that wing spot was so massive. He needed to take that opportunity and he did and he’s gone well. And it was nice to see him score a try.
“It was great having him there in the summer – the two of us trained a fair bit (together). There was a couple of days where I wasn’t necessarily up for a few sessions and he dragged me along and vice-versa. Athletically he’s definitely kicked on another gear.”
Dave, who played in every minute of Ireland’s 2014 Six Nations campaign, notched his third Test try during the first half against Canada. A speedy burst past DTH van der Merwe gave a glimpse of the sort of form he is in.
There was a personal milestone for the brothers from the Cooley Peninsula as they both touched down in the same World Cup game, matching a feat previously achieved by Scott and Gavin Hastings from Scotland and England’s Underwoods, Rory and Tony.
Rob himself missed Ireland’s last warm-up Test in England due to a bruised knee, and he conceded that he has ‘not been that spent in a long, long time’ after a particularly energetic 80 minutes against the Canadians.
“I don’t know if it was being my first proper competitive game back or if it was the (Millennium Stadium) roof being closed. There was a huge amount of ball in play.
“I was unbelievably tired after the game. I was asking around the lads after the game hoping they would say the same, so I wasn’t miles off the pace, but the consensus was that the lads found it very quick.”
The elder Kearney ran in his 11th try for Ireland during the closing stages, linking superbly with Keith Earls on a breakout from deep, while he made the most metres (148) and two clean breaks, and was defensively solid throughout.
Commenting on the collective performance, he admitted: “I think we have to be pretty pleased with how we started. We got some good points on the board, scored some tries and got a good hit-out under a closed roof at the Millennium. No injuries. So a lot of positives there.
“There are a few things we can work on – our discipline in the second half, we got turned over a few times, maybe could have put away a few more opportunities but all in all quite pleasing.”
Thoughts have quickly turned to Ireland’s second round meeting with Romania which will take place at the iconic Wembley Stadium next Sunday (kick-off 4.45pm). If selected this week, Kearney would love to run out at a ground he played at in October 2010, lining out for Leinster against Saracens in the Heineken Cup.
“I was lucky enough to play there once before, but it wasn’t full. There’s so much history and tradition (with Wembley). Even looking at it yesterday, breaking a (Rugby World Cup attendance) record with the Argies and New Zealand, it looked like an unbelievable atmosphere and no one knows how to party at games like the Irish!”