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'I don't want to be sitting down when I'm older regretting not enjoying it'

As he continues to produce the best rugby of his career, Keith Earls says a conversation with Paul O’Connell has played a part.

Earls pictured at Carton House this afternoon.
Earls pictured at Carton House this afternoon.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from Carton House

KEITH EARLS IS playing as well as ever, and now happy in his body and mind, the winger is relishing the prospect of pulling on an Ireland jersey again after injury intervened last November.

The 30-year-old has been in outstanding form for Munster this season — scoring five tries in eight games so far — and his confidence is manifest in everything he does, as evidenced during a man-of-the-match performances against Castres recently.

Earls’ rich vein of form made him a shoe-in for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against France on Saturday and the Limerick man will look to continue his prolific scoring streak on the international stage having scored nine in 10 games last term.

But Earls is so much more than an adept finisher, with Munster’s new expansive approach under Johann van Graan allowing the back three to get their hands on the ball more often and Earls being given the freedom to showcase his ability to beat defenders and cut opposition defences apart.

The prime example being that Champions Cup win at Thomond Park when Earls provided the assist for Simon Zebo’s bonus-point clinching score, stepping inside a couple of tackles and offloading for his supporting team-mate to race home.

Zebo, of course, is no longer part of Joe Schmidt’s side but Earls will be hoping to strike a similar understanding with Jacob Stockdale and Rob Kearney on Saturday as he wins his 63rd cap, and 29th in the Six Nations.

“I’m feeling good and enjoying my rugby at the moment,” he said at today’s press conference.

“Particularly down in Munster, we’ve being doing alright and I suppose I’m chomping at the bit to get a run out with Ireland after getting injured in November and I’m just enjoying it and it seems to be working.”

Keith Earls Earls has scored nine tries in his last 10 Ireland games. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

After starring in the summer tour of USA/Japan, an unfortunately timed hamstring injury in the week leading up to the first Test against South Africa ruled him out of the Guinness Series, but Earls, even at 30, has come back stronger than ever.

“It’s about enjoying it rather than being nervous and overplaying situations in your head,” he continues.

“It’s about enjoying it as you get older and hopefully, I’ll have another five years left me, actually six or seven maybe [laughs].

“I don’t want to be sitting down when I’m older regretting not enjoying it.

“After speaking with Paulie [Paul O'Connell] on the schoolyard a couple of weeks ago, and having roomed together over the years, we’d be nervous before games but he says if he had his chance again he wouldn’t worry as much. I took something from that.”

In a room next door, CJ Stander was asked about Earls’ flying form for both club and country over the last 18 months.

“He’s always been a flyer,” the number eight says. “He’s the best winger I’ve played with, he always brings a lot of energy. He’s a good leader and he’s got experience.

“When he touches the ball something is going to happen. The work he puts in during the week lets it look easy on the weekend.”

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