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Rob Kearney and Ben Franks return to their sporting roots

By Paul Smith
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Two international rugby superstars have returned to their sporting roots during the last few days.


And while former New Zealand forward Ben Franks stuck with rugby union, recently departed Ireland full back Rob Kearney has turned the clock back 16 years to re-establish his Gaelic football links.

According to RTE’s Niall McCoy, the 35-year-old who toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2009 and 2013, trained with his boyhood club, GAA outfit Cooley Kickhams earlier this week.

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John Kirwan on the Bledisloe Cup
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John Kirwan on the Bledisloe Cup

The two-time Ireland Grand Slam winner and former European Player-of-the-Year recently completed a spell with Australian Super Rugby outfit the Force who he joined after his 16-year stint with Leinster ended last year.

Kearney, who retained strong links with the County Louth-based Kickhams throughout his time in rugby union, previously indicated that a return to Gaelic football was on his radar.

And according to Kickham’s club secretary Brian Rafferty, Kearney has this week picked up where he left off in 2005.

“He’s back training with the club,” Rafferty said.


“Rob is trying to give something back to the club. He felt that he always had to do that.

“He left when he was young but always supported the club and we have welcomed him back with open arms.

“He’s one of our own and he said that last night. Any time he was here he was always welcome at the club. He was straight into the fold and he’s taking it from there and he’s going to see how he gets on.

“He’s going to continue train and he’s hoping to play a bit. He’s like everyone else, he’ll fight for his place.


“He said he’s rusty and that he hasn’t held a Gaelic ball in his hands for 16 years but he ran around last night and after five minutes it was as if he was never away from us.”

Meanwhile 37-year-old former All Black Ben Franks has turned out for Welsh junior club Hendy.

The double World Cup winner who is now scrum coach for the Scarlets came on as a back-row replacement for the third-tier Division One West club’s WRU Plate clash with Pontarddulais.

Franks – who earned 47 All Black caps – last played professionally for English Premiership outfit Northampton.

Hendy captain Ben Batcup told Wales Online that his father Craig who is Franks’ neighbour advised him that the Kiwi fancied a game.

“Craig rung me the other week and said Ben was missing playing and would be up for a game,” he said.

“We all got a bit excited, but said we wouldn’t actually believe it until we saw him on the field. But fair play, he was true to his word. He trained on Thursday and played on Saturday.

“He didn’t want to play front row because he said his neck wasn’t what it used to be, but if he wanted to play no.10, I wouldn’t tell him ‘no’ – he can play wherever he wants!

“It was a bit of a surreal experience. You are looking round on the field and there’s an All Black stood next to you!”

Hendy were trailing 10-5 when Franks took the field ended up winning 22-13.


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