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Kearney to push Halfpenny

14th June 2013 10:14

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British and Irish Lions 2013  Rob Kearney

Back in action: Rob Kearney

Ireland full-back Rob Kearney has praised Leigh Halfpenny's impact on the British and Irish Lions tour, but plans to push him close.

Kearney was a breakout star on the 2009 tour to South Africa but has yet to make an appearance on tour due a persistent hamstring injury picked up ahead of the RaboDirect Pro12 Final.

Halfpenny has been pencilled in as the Test starter due to his outstanding ability off the kicking tee and Kearney is aware of the challenge facing him, but is eager to make an impact initially off the bench against the Waratahs on Saturday.

"Leigh Halfpenny has done fantastically well. He found himself in the full-back position by chance a little bit. He has stepped in there and made the position his own pretty quickly," said Kearney.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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."