Irish fullback eyes off the red number 15 jersey for a date with the Wallabies.
Rob Kearney says he has not given up hope of playing fullback for the British and Irish Lions in the three Test series against the Wallabies following his injury setback.
The Irish custodian is expected to make his first appearance on tour off the bench in Saturday’s match against the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney following a hamstring injury.
Welshman Leigh Halfpenny, who will start at number 15 against the Waratahs, has taken up the early running for the fullback spot for next week’s opening Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane.
“Leigh Halfpenny has done fantastically well. He found himself in the fullback position by chance a little bit. He has stepped in there and made the position his own pretty quickly,” Leinster’s Kearney said.
“I think he has gone from strength to strength, but I’d like to think I can still push him.
“My timing hasn’t been great, and his 11 from 11 (goals) hasn’t helped me, but there is a lot to happen on this tour.”
Kearney, 27, injured his hamstring in the warm-up ahead of Leinster’s Pro12 final in Dublin a month ago and it has taken until the fifth game for him to make an appearance on the Australian tour.
“If there is one time in four years not to pick up an injury or little niggle it is at the start of a Lions tour. My timing couldn’t have been any worse,” Kearney said.
“I got a scan in Hong Kong and it could easily have gone either way — I could have been getting the first flight back to Dublin or going off to Australia with the lads.
“It does give you a bit of perspective, especially when you then see a few boys heading home like Cian (Healy) and Gethin (Jenkins).”
Kearney said staying on the tour gave him renewed confidence and he was experiencing no problems with his hamstring.
“I took a bit of confidence from that and then you start to feel that luck is on your side. Then you get the chance to put the jersey on again, which is a fantastic feeling, albeit it might be a little bit late,” he said.
“But then there is a lot to happen yet – I’m running perfectly, have no problems at all and I’m even happier than I expected to be.”