Kearney catches the eye for Ireland
PA Sport
February 3, 2008

The gloom shrouding Irish rugby may still linger but Rob Kearney's RBS 6 Nations debut has left the rookie Leinster winger eager for more.

Ireland opened the championship with a laboured 16-11 victory over wooden-spoon favourites Italy which has done nothing to restore the morale sapped by a calamitous World Cup.

Kearney's enthusiasm after arriving as a first-half replacement for Gordon D'Arcy was one of the few highlights to emerge from a challenging afternoon at Croke Park.

And while he sympathises with D'Arcy's misfortune - the Lions centre will miss the rest of the Six Nations with a fractured forearm - he intends to seize his opportunity.

Ireland name their team to face France on Tuesday and 21-year-old Kearney, who has two caps, has trained his sights on starting against the champions.

``With Gordon being a close friend it's hard to take what happened to him - it's not something you want to see,'' he said.

``But it's gave me a chance which is fantastic. It was good to get on the pitch quite early in the game.

``Personally I thought the match was fantastic. It was the first time I've played in that arena and it was something pretty special.

``I'll never forget it. Collectively we got the win which was the most important thing and we created opportunities, which was a positive.

``We left a few of them behind but hopefully we'll be more ruthless against France.

``Selection has opened up for me a bit now but there's nothing definitive there as some of the Ireland A boys played well against England on Friday.''

Italy's perseverance troubled Ireland who began to buckle once prop Martin Castrogiovanni barged over for a 63rd-minute try.

It was hardly the performance coach Eddie O'Sullivan had demanded to draw a line through the World Cup, but Kearney insists the changing room was buoyant afterwards.

``There was nothing down about the mood following the game. It wasn't easy against Italy and we had to dig deep to come out on top,'' he said.

``Obviously there's a bit of frustration because of the opportunities we left behind but we know they're little things that can be easily fixed.

``Making a winning start was the most important thing.

``It's no secret that Ireland aren't playing to their full potential but against France we'll be looking to prove what we're capable of.''

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