Six Nations: Rob Kearney admits Leigh Halfpenny has advantage in Lions duel
Last Updated: 12/03/13 6:25pm
Rob Kearney: In action against France for an Ireland side in a three-way battle to avoid the wooden spoon
Ireland full-back Rob Kearney concedes he has slipped behind Wales' Leigh Halfpenny in their Lions duel after struggling to showcase his attacking skills in the Six Nations.
The rivals are expected to embark on the summer tour to Australia but it is Halfpenny who has made himself a frontrunner for the No. 15 jersey in the Test series after successive man-of-the-match displays.
Kearney won three Lions caps in South Africa four years ago and is the man in possession, but could yet miss out on the tour altogether should coach Warren Gatland prefer Scotland's Stuart Hogg.
"Leigh's goalkicking alone has made him the standout full-back of the Six Nations. Wales have won a huge amount of games with his kicking skills," Kearney said.
"For me it's quite frustrating because receiving kicks was always a great way to get into games, get some ball and display my strengths.
"That's something I've definitely struggled with throughout this campaign. It shows a little bit as well in terms of my own touches.
"It's a case of trying to not get too frustrated by it and trying to find other ways to get into the game, although that hasn't been helped by the conditions we've been playing in.
"Last weekend against France was only my seventh start this season because of injury. I always think it's around six, seven or eight games that you start getting back into the run of things."
Saturday's clash with Italy presents a final chance to impress Gatland on the international stage, but the 26-year-old believes the Kiwi will look beyond the Six Nations to inform his opinion.
"Of course it crosses your mind that this weekend is the last major stage to impress Lions selectors, but selection will have been going on throughout the last year," he said.
"Although a huge amount of emphasis has been put on the Six Nations, it's not the be-all and end-all.
"It's not the only shop window to stake your claim. It's important to recognise that when the team does well, individuals do well.
"Once you start trying to play as individuals, that's when the team suffers. Ultimately then the player will suffer."