Three Irish players have won three Six Nations titles (one of them a Grand Slam) along with beating the All Blacks, but only one man has started all of those games: Rob Kearney.
The last couple of seasons have been underwhelming for Kearney, and his selection at full-back for Saturday's game at Soldier Field was the most surprising of the team selections. Beset by injury, and having seen him blown away by Nemani Nadolo in the Champions Cup a couple of weeks ago, many were unsure as to whether he deserved his place.
Yet he responded well, and while he may have been partly culpable for the first and final All Black tries, his attacking game was superb, and he was outstanding under the high ball.
While Schmidt kept faith with Kearney, it certainly isn't a case of blind loyalty, as Kearney has revealed:
He pulled me aside before the game and he said, ’You need a big one today’.
It wasn’t ideal, but it was good.
We’ve been together a long time now from when he first came to Leinster.
So maybe that was the one-liner that I need to put the fear of God into me.
Kearney's response was testament to great mental strength on Kearney's part, and his quotes after the game are those of a man who has taken the slings and arrows of top-level rugby in the past two seasons.
It’s been a tough enough 18 months. Just, first and foremost, body has not been where it was been.
Then on the back of that, you’re not playing to your potential and people get on your case, then you get on your own case.
Inside my head has been a dark enough place in the last few months.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be selected this week, and I’m just glad I was able to repay Joe and my fellow players the trust that has been shown. But there’s still lots of stuff to work on, it wasn’t a perfect performance by any means.
After the game, Kearney gave a superb interview to American television, despite the fact the question seemed longer than the answer:
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) November 5, 2016
See Also: 'New Zealand Wanted To Bring Him Home' - Steve Hansen Had Plenty Of Praise For Joe Schmidt