Joe Schmidt has hailed his Mr Reliable Rob Kearney and predicts a strong future for the full-back as Ireland swept to the Grand Slam in the recently concluded Six Nations tournament.
Kearney was one of only two survivors in the Ireland set-up from 2009's famous team.
The 31-year-old full-back stormed back into vintage form as Ireland overwhelmed England 24-15 at Twickenham on Saturday to claim just their third-ever Six Nations clean sweep.
Asked why he continues to stick with Kearney, Schmidt replied: “I don’t go back to Rob Kearney, I go forward to Rob Kearney. Rob Kearney goes forward.
“Rob still has a future with us. You don’t pick people if you don’t think they have a future with you.
“I am not sure what more people want from Rob Kearney, 140 running meters against Scotland in possession.”
Schmidt recalled Kearney's fierce contest with Anthony Watson that set-up the opening Irish try on Saturday.
“I thought the kick was a little too far, and that fella Kearney wasn’t even going to get into that contest. He gets into that contest when he doesn’t have a right to be there,” Schmidt said.
“That guy is a catalyst for other guys around him.
“As represented by the four Six Nations titles he has, Rob must have some idea of what he is doing.”
Johnny Sexton had nothing but high praise for coach Schmidt as he also revealed that for the first time under any coach, they were talking about a Grand Slam even before the Six Nations kicked off.
“It’s probably the first time we’ve been allowed speak about the Grand Slam before the campaign,” Sexton said.
“It was blatantly obvious to the older guys – Keith Earls, myself, Rob Kearney, Rory Best – that we wanted to win a Grand Slam.
“We have always been very process-driven so we spoke about it at the start and then parked it. And went game by game. Literally. Even this week we didn’t speak about a Grand Slam, we just spoke about putting in our best performance. We knew we had to get a result against that side.
“Joe (Schmidt) keeps you on your toes. How do I put this nicely? At times during the week you are driven demented with him but you know he is doing it for a reason – putting pressure on you in training, at meetings to make sure on Saturday every box is ticked, to make sure all the prep is done.
“He is an incredible coach, his record with Irish teams speaks for itself. He was three years with Leinster and got to six finals. Five years with Ireland and we have won three championships and a Grand Slam.”
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