Rob Kearney On The Huge Provincial Shift That Has Resulted In Ireland’s Success

Good friends.

The 2007 Rugby World Cup is a tournament that will never be forgotten in terms of Irish Rugby – and for all the wrong reasons. Arguably the greatest Ireland team of the professional era headed into rugby’s showpiece tournament, hugely fancied to progress to the latter stages and perhaps pull off something special. But we all know how that worked out.

What happened? Why were Ireland so poor? A team littered with world class stars. Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Jerry Flannery, Paul O’Connell, David Wallace, Donncha O’Callaghan, Denis Hickie, Shane Horgan – you name it. The talent was endless.

Munster had just won a Heineken Cup in 2006, defeating Leinster in the semi-final, and went on to win it again in 2008. Leinster then followed up in 2009 with a win of their own. It was an era dominated by Irish Rugby at club level, yet the national side just couldn’t click on the grandest stage of them all. It was the same story in 2011, although Ireland did manage a Grand Slam in 2009 in between.

Was it the incredible rivalry and competition that existed between Ireland’s two most successful provinces? Did that hold Ireland back as a national side? Veteran fullback Rob Kearney reckons yes, perhaps that was a factor.

Speaking yesterday as Rugby Players Ireland announced their partnership with Goodbody, Kearney says there was a level of “hatred” that existed between Leinster and Munster we he made his professional debut back in 2005.

“Yeah it’s certainly different now than it was, say, for my first one, 13, 14 years ago,” Kearney said yesterday.

“There’s not the same level of hatred. Guys get on much better in national camp now. A lot of the guys would consider themselves good friends and that certainly wasn’t the case 14 years ago.

“So, maybe back then that was a little bit to the detriment of the national team’s performances. You need to have real strong relationships with your teammates at national level to be a successful team, so if it has taken a small bit of the bite out of the provincial derbies, at least it has come at some sort of a cost or an expense.”

No doubt both provinces will want to earn ‘bragging rights’ this weekend when the two sides meet at the Aviva. But don’t feel like they need to tear absolute lumps out of each other. Don’t be upset if they share a laugh and a joke. These lads are building something special. Not just at provincial level, but on an international stage too.

Follow Me