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Kearney: 'Family plays a huge role'
03 Sep 2015 08:08
When Ireland complete their last-minute preparations before opening their World Cup bid against Canada in Cardiff, Siobhan Kearney will light a candle... and Rob Kearney won't be wearing lucky jocks.
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Ireland full-back Rob Kearney will clear his mind, focus on the biggest stage of all - and leave the rituals to his mum.
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The British and Irish Lions star draws strength from his mother's support, but is just too steely-eyed to let superstition creep into his own routine.
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No lucky pants for the 29-year-old means no fretting about remembering what to pack - and no match-day panic.
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"I look at guys with superstitions, and some guys say 'I only wear these jocks for every game'," Kearney told Press Association Sport.
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"But I've seen guys leave those lucky jocks back in Dublin, then worry about what to do next.
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"Being forced into a corner or a situation like that, it's not something I really want.
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"Thankfully I'm not too superstitious and I don't intend on being so anytime soon.
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"The support of my family is different obviously, their backing is huge.
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"To know that they are thinking about you, and supporting you, that always gives you a lift.
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"Family plays a huge role in you fulfilling your potential.
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"The happier you are, the more comfortable you are: the more you can do your thing when it comes to game-time."
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Ireland's trusted last line of defence is also an astute attacking tactician and a master of the aerial assault so pivotal in head coach Joe Schmidt's preferred gameplan.
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The Leinster stalwart has an MBA in the bag and a part share in The Bridge, a thriving Ballsbridge bar, a joint venture with brother Dave, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien.
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Relentless Kiwi coach Schmidt is famed for his intense training camps, often stopping players in the Carton House corridors for a pop-quiz.
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The ex-Clermont and Leinster coach has no off switch when it comes to rugby, and demands the same of his charges.
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Schmidt does appreciate the art of balance however, and has introduced meditation sessions into the mayhem of Test match preparation.
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Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic is among the many sporting devotees of 'mindfulness', and Kearney - one part sceptic and two parts cynic - admits himself a convert too.
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Times were when rugby players would have volunteered themselves for committal on feeling the need for a lie-down in a darkened room.
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But in a world where Leicester hardman Richard Cockerill can relish Bikram yoga, all bets are off.
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"It's 15 to 20 minutes twice a week, I suppose it gives guys a chance to chill out, be reflective of what's gone on that day, the previous few days, and how you're going to attack the rest of the week," said Kearney.
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"Some guys enjoy it, some guys don't, but again if it helps you improve yourself by even half a per cent you're adding value to the team and that's the ultimate goal.
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"There's a little bit of music, not pop or hip-hop or anything, but it's guys lying down and having a few moments to themselves.
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"There's not a huge amount to it, it's very easy to do and it's very easy to practise, but it has shown a few little results for us."
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Test rugby stars are natural high-achievers, driven by the pursuit of continual improvement: Kearney conceded hitting pause on the treadmill takes some getting used to.
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"We speak to ourselves more than we do to anyone else in the world, your thoughts that you have with yourself, there's something like 20,000 or 50,000 thoughts a day," said Kearney.
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"So it is difficult, they try to get you to switch off and focus on your breathing and all those sorts of things.
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"It can be tough not to think about the game at the weekend, training that day, or the conversation you had with your mate the night before.
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"I can't pinpoint one different thing that I think about during that time, it's generally just repeating the same thoughts you have throughout the day.
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"You're just a little bit more conscious about it.
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"You can organise your thoughts, just be a little bit reflective, and strategise how you're going to go about what's ahead."
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The rest of the field will do well to be mindful of the fact Ireland approach this global battle ranked second in the world.
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By the time that Saturday, September 19 Pool D opener against Canada comes around, Kearney believes Ireland will be ready to justify two years of success under Schmidt.
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"Joe's style, his approach and the results we've had so far with him, it's all very reassuring," said Kearney.
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"We've got a group of players, a culture, a staff and a set of players where everyone and everything is driven towards being the best for each other.
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"We recognise this, we've fully committed to it and hopefully that will pay off.
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"All told though, we still know all that will count is what happens on the pitch."
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