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Rob Kearney: 'I'm still, to this day, waiting for an apology'

By Ian Cameron
Italian and Irish players fight in the first minute of the match after Italy's Andrea Masi carried out a dangerous tackle on Robert Kearney during the 2009 Six Nations (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Rugby’s a funny game. It’s a sport where any given player – whatever has just happened in the previous 80 minutes – traditionally walks off the field and shakes his opponent’s hand, maybe apologizes for stepping over the mark, if that’s what’s happened, and everyone moves on.

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But it doesn’t always play out like that.

Recently retired Rob Kearney recalls one incident where he is still waiting – 13 years on – for an apology from the perpetrator of an awful tackle attempt that floored him in the 2009 Six Nations.

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Rob Kearney and Alfie Barbeary – A Lion and a Wasp | RugbyPass Offload | Episode 17
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Rob Kearney and Alfie Barbeary – A Lion and a Wasp | RugbyPass Offload | Episode 17

Italian fullback Andrea Masi received a yellow card for clotheslining Kearney WWE style just 45 seconds into the game at the Stadio Flaminio. It would have easily been a red card by today’s standards, but in 2009 all it warranted was 10 minutes in the bin. 

It makes for a pretty funny yarn – the way Kearney tells it at least.

“He played with Wasps for a long time and by all accounts he’s a bloke that seems pretty popular and someone that guys got on with,” Kearney told RugbyPass’ The Offload podcast.

“But I’ll never forget after that [the tackle] he stood up, right over me, and he had clotheslined me. He nearly took my head off.

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“I jumped up and he was screaming in my face. ‘You liked that mother****er, you liked that mother****er?

“I thought this guy was absolutely off the wall crazy. Then I saw him at the post-match function that night and he had this look in his eyes. He’s like staring at me.

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“I was like surely an apology wouldn’t go astray? I was 23 and it was my second Six Nations and I knew the Italians were passionate, but I didn’t think they were that bonkers.”

No apology or mea culpa was forthcoming from the Italian great, although he was cited for the incident.

“I played against him a few times after that. Once in the Heineken Cup a few years later and I remember going over to him, thinking ”Things have settled down a bit now, he’ll take the opportunity to say ‘oh, yeah sorry, I didn’t mean to,’ although he clearly did.

“No nothing. I’m still waiting, to this day, for an apology.”

“But as you can see,” jokes Kearney. “I’ve gotten over it. It’s not sticking with me I swear.”

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