There are a few players in the current Ireland crop that are creating headlines, a few are also capturing imaginations – Rob Kearney is doing both, and at the age of 23, it’s likely that he’ll be doing both for some time to come.
Height: 6′ 1′
Date of Birth: March 26th, 1986
Birthplace: Dundalk, Ireland
Kearney has showed huge amounts of promise from an early age – he played for Leinster at both schoolboy and U-19 level before going onto represent them as a senior, scoring a hat-trick of tries on his debut for Leinster in the pre-season friendly win over Parma.
He then made his Celtic League debut for Leinster in 2005 in a 22-20 defeat away to the Ospreys. He would go on to make 32 appearances in the competition, scoring 8 tries, with 3 penalties during a period in September 2006, when usual place kicker Felipe Contepomi was injured. Kearney then played in his first Heineken Cup game in a 19-22 defeat against Bath at the RDS later that same season. It was the first of 10 appearances scoring 4 tries in the process.
His early CV at international level also reads well representing Ireland at schoolboy, U-19 and A level before he was called up to the senior squad for the 2008 Six Nations Championship. He was first called into the Irish training squad for 2005’s Autumn Internationals and toured with Ireland A in the summer playing in the Churchill Cup. In April 2007, he was named in the Irish squad to tour Argentina in the summer – during which he made his debut. During the 2008 Six Nations Championship he scored 2 tries, one against Scotland and one against England, primarily playing on the wing.
Despite drawing rave reviews as Ireland’s established full-back, it’s easy to forget the bizarre early-season scenario which had Rob Kearney consistently out of position on the left wing. After two superb turns at No 15 against New Zealand and Australia on Ireland’s summer tour – performances which earned lavish praise from a hard-to-impress Australian and New Zealand rugby media – it was widely expected Kearney would be locked in his preferred position for the foreseeable future.
However, Michael Cheika’s attempts to juggle his resources at Leinster meant Kearney was forced into the No 11 jersey as Girvan Dempsey and Isa Nacewa alternated at the back. The upshot was that, when Declan Kidney was picking his team for the November series, the Louthman had no run of games in the position and was back on the touchline as the Ireland coach selected Keith Earls, Dempsey and Geordan Murphy at full-back on successive Saturdays.
It wasn’t until a run of games at fullback for Leinster in the New Year that Kearney had the chance to win back his preferred shirt. Fast forward a few months, and after assured displays against all teams in Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign, and Kearney is being touted as the Lions No 15 for this summer’s tour.
Can he fend off Lee Byrne to don the Test jersey?