Rob Kearney says Ireland are treating next Saturday’s decider against Australia as a cup final as they look to finish their Grand Slam season with a first series win in the Southern Hemisphere since 1979.
He may already be his country’s most decorated player, but the full-back wants to secure one more piece of history before signing off on a trophy laden season for Leinster and Ireland.
Joe Schmidt’s Natwest 6 Nations champions bounced back from their opening Test loss to level the series with a 26-21 win in Melbourne on Saturday and landed in Sydney overnight to begin their preparations for the Allianz Sydney clash.
And Kearney says Ireland will give it everything to finish their campaign with another major scalp.
“We’re into a final now,” Kearney said. “The good thing for this group is that it’s the last game of the season, so there is literally no holding back for anything. We can give every ounce of energy we have.
“Not that we don’t do that anyway, but there’s something about the last game of the season where it’s just all guns blazing, you throw everything into it to win.”
Saturday’s win ended a 39-year wait for an Irish win over the Wallabies on Australian soil when they last won a series beneath the equator and, while Kearney appreciated the significance, he said that this squad were expecting to bounce back after their Brisbane loss.
“It does feel like an incredible achievement,” he said. “There’s so many guys coming into the squad now who are part of this new breed who just expect to win a little bit, but we understand how difficult it is to win down here.
“But this team has some pretty high expectations of ourselves and the way we want to go on and achieve. We’re certainly not surprised to be going into the series decider in the final week.
“Going to Sydney for a dead rubber would have been grim, 2-0 down next week. It was a much better performance to get the win and go onto a series decider.”
Although disappointed with his side’s inability to close out the series in the second game, Wallaby out-half Bernard Foley is excited about the prospect of a grand finale at the already sold-out 45,500 capacity venue.
“It’s a decider, we would’ve liked to have sealed it up in two, but to come back to a decider in Sydney and a sell-out crowd in front of our home fans is something we’re just going to have to really embrace, really enjoy,” he said.
“They’re all world-class players, they didn’t get to number two in the world for no reason.
“We’re well aware that they’re all quality players, capable players and if we give them enough possession in the right end of the field, they’re going to be a dangerous side.
“For us, it’s nullifying that, nullifying how much time and space they can have and on the flipside, when we’re holding the ball we can hold that for sustained periods and keep the pressure on.”
Having lost Will Genia for the final game, Australia got some good news overnight as scans revealed Adam Coleman had not fractured his cheekbone as first feared.