The Rugby Pod sat down with Rob Kearney following Ireland’s impressive November International Series. We spoke with the Leinster fullback about finally ending the All Black hoodoo, Joe Schmidt, the implementation of Bonus Points in the 6 Nations, Conor McGregor & what the future holds for Ireland’s last line of defence.
Rob Kearney is an ambassador for Optimum Nutrition
Rob, first things first. New Zealand in Chicago. The best win of your career?
Yeah, I think it has to be. Certainly, top 3. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of some awesome occasions through my career including the Grand Slam in Cardiff, but beating the All Blacks is something I’ve been trying to do for a long time now. It was top of my list of things to still achieve in my career, so to get it done in Chicago and have my family there to celebrate, was a dream come through.
Did you give O’Driscoll a bit of stick about retiring a couple of years too early?
To be fair, he was one the first to text and congratulate me. He was delighted for us. I’m sure he would have liked to be out there with us, like most ex internationals who have played against the All Blacks. But like everyone, he was just so happy we’d finally broken the hunch. It was a long time coming.
It’s been a great year for Irish Sport, with Conor Mcgregor also making waves in UFC.
I follow him and his career closely. It’s incredible what he’s done for Irish Sport, what he’s done for UFC, but the most fascinating thing is how he has done it. He’s given everyone an absolute lesson in terms of sports marketing, self-promotion and branding. All those things are a lot stronger in an individual sport, and you could never do it in a team sport, but his story has been fascinating and a joy to watch.
Joe Schmidt is getting the best out of you personally and Ireland. What’s his secret?
Good question, I guess it’s that exact secret which makes him one of the best coaches in the world. His big thing is an incredible attention to detail. He always puts a very good game plan together. It’s never over complicated and there’s real clarity about exactly we need to execute and achieve. He also makes sure there’s plenty of competition and I think that drives everyone and gets the best out of us. I’ve been working with Joe for 7 years now, and I think you’ll struggle to find a better coach anywhere in the world.
He brought in 9 new caps over the November internationals. Who impressed you behind the scenes?
The same guys who impressed on the pitch to be honest. If you’re not delivering in training and in the gym, you rarely see it on the pitch. Players like Josh van der Flier, Garry Ringrose and Joey Carberry have made big impressions. Particularly over the last year, Josh and Garry have taken international rugby by storm and are very exciting prospects.
Any initiations for all the new cap?
There were so many of them and we flew out the day after the All Blacks game so we didn’t get a chance! The initiations of 10 years ago have been tamed down a bit unfortunately. My one was over in Buenos Aires, and involved an Argentinian drink I don’t ever want to see, taste or smell again.
Looking towards the Six Nations, Bonus Points will be added to this season’s tournament. Is that the right move?
The jury is out on it. I would hate to see a team not win a Championship because of weather conditions. It’s without doubt more difficult to win games and score 4 tries in heavy rain, so there will be times when weather affects games and that would be my only concern. Hopefully it makes games more exciting. You’re going to see more attacking rugby which is obviously what you want.
England are back to their best and seem to have that pomp & arrogant streak of the Martin Johnson era. What have you made of their new look squad under Jones?
I think Lancaster built a very strong base and Jones has come in and put the icing on the cake. They have a very strong backbone in the pack, which is where their strength lies. Billy Vuniploa will be a big loss over for them during the six nations, but they’ve got so many other stars and are rightly favourites for the Six Nations.
Lancaster is working with you at Leinster – What has he brought to the team?
He’s getting on really well. He’s a superb coach and above all, he has strong values which is very important to me. He’s changed our defensive structure a huge amount and upped our line speed and made us a much more comfortable team without the ball. Attack wise, he’s added a few elements to our phase play and is working closely with Girv on our power plays and first phase ball.
What do you get up to outside of Rugby and what are your longer-term ambitions?
I’m involved with a couple of bars with Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and my younger brother Dave which is good fun. I also helped set up a recruitment company with a pal from school, Andrew Lynch, called Mason Alexander. But ultimately, I want to play for as long as I can. My body will have a huge say in this, but I’m very happy at Leinster and I love living in Dublin. I have two more years on my contract, and that will bring me up to 18 months from a World Cup in Japan, so who knows, but at the moment, I’m hungry for more!
‘Rob Kearney is an ambassador for Optimum Nutrition, the world’s leading trusted sports nutrition partner. Optimum Nutrition has been setting the Gold Standard for more than 30 years, providing quality products for everyone from everyday gym goers to elite athletes. Read more at www.onacademy.co.uk’
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