Full-back admits he is fortunate to still be on the Lions tour
Last Updated: 15/06/13 3:59pm
Rob Kearney admits he feels "lucky" to be donning the British and Irish Lions jersey on Saturday after missing the start of the tour with injury.
Ireland full-back Kearney has expressed his gratitude towards coaching staff after being allowed to remain on tour despite suffering a hamstring injury.
The 27-year-old is set to make a belated first appearance on the tour having been named amongst Warren Gatland's replacements for the Lions clash with the Waratahs in Sydney.
However, Kearney understands that he could have missed the boarding call for Australia having sustained an injury so early in proceedings.
"My timing couldn't have been any worse," he said. "I got a scan done 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.
Kearney excited to play
"It does give you a bit of perspective, especially when you then see a few boys heading home like Cian [Healy] and Gethin [Jenkins]. Then you start to feel that luck is on your side.
"Then you get the chance this weekend to put the jersey on again, which is a fantastic feeling, albeit it might be a little bit late."
Kearney was a replacement for the injured Lee Byrne in South Africa four years ago, before going on to become a pivotal part of the Lions Test side.
However, the Leinster-man knows he has a substantial task ahead if he is to challenge Leigh Halfpenny for the number 15 jersey.
"Leigh found himself in the Wales full-back position by chance a little bit," he added. "James Hook was there for a while, and after Lee Byrne they never really had an established full-back, and he stepped in there and made the position his own pretty quickly.
"I could have been getting the first flight back to Dublin, or going off to Australia with the lads."
"I think he has gone from strength to strength. I would like to think I can push him."
The Ireland flyer concedes it has been far from an idyllic start to the tour but insists the faith shown by Gatland and the Lions team has given him a much-needed injection of confidence.
"Being in that scanning machine was a low point because I had no idea what the results were going to read," he said.
"I was pretty chuffed with the coaching staff when they gave me the chance to hang on for two weeks without any involvement. I took a bit of confidence from that."