Earls hoping to continue upward curve after stellar season

Keith Earls enjoyed arguably his most successful campaign from a personal point of view in 2017/18 and is eager to get back into the swing of things this season. The 70 times capped Irish international says he enjoyed the time off after the summer tour of Australia and is back in the selection fold for the Guinness Pro14 clash with Cardiff Blues on Friday.

“I had a bit of a holiday with the family and then back into it the last couple of weeks,” explained Earls. “I really enjoyed the break this year. We had five weeks off. The seasons are getting longer and tougher and I’m getting older. In the last couple of weeks we have been getting a bit itchy.”

European Rugby Champions Cup Round 5, U Arena, Paris, France 14/1/2018 Racing 92 vs Munster Munster’s Keith Earls scores a try despite the efforts of Teddy Thomas of Racing Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Earls has liked what he has seen so far this season from Munster and believes that they have the squad depth to improve on last season where the province reached the semi finals in both the Pro14 and Champions Cup. The signings of Joey Carbery, Tadhg Beirne and Arno Botha already look to have strengthened the squad significantly.

“We have come up short the last couple of years. I think we have great depth in our squad this year. If there are injuries, the next fella can step in and is just as good, which is crucial. It has probably killed us the last couple of years with fellas having to play six or seven weeks in a row. I think Johann has the luxury of mixing and matching this year.”

Earls has also been impressed by what he has seen from Munster’s back three in the early stages of the season. Darren Sweetnam has been in flying form, while Mike Haley has also slotted in well to the full back position after Simon Zebo’s exit.

“He is a phenomenal athlete,” said Earls about Sweetnam. You look at his record. He has played hurling, hockey and all sorts. He is a well rounded rugby player now as well. He is getting a lot of the back field stuff now intelligence wise.

He is going to be a super player in the future. I know I can’t slack off one bit. The lads are creeping up on us. Shane Daly was brilliant when he came in and obviously Calvin (Nash) is there as well. They keep me young.”

Earls wasn’t just relaxing in the off-season as It was well publicised that Earls spoke to the Limerick hurling team in the lead up to their All-Ireland win. However, he has played down his role in the victory.

“It was more of a Q&A than anything. Like we do in Irish camp. Fellas come into us and speak, probably to keep the boredom out of it and with the season that I suppose I had, I was asked to have a chat but it certainly had nothing to do with them winning and All-Ireland.

“They’re all winners before I went in there with Minor and U-21’s. It was great to get into them and have a chat but I didn’t contribute to it. It was brilliant. I got to the game at the Gaelic Grounds against Tipperary. I went with my wife, she was more hurling than me. She is a Na Piarsaigh woman.

“I brought my little girl up to the final and she is no playing camogie in Monaleen. Being there as a spectator at a different sport was phenomenal. They’re freakish athletes for amateurs.”

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John Keogh