Billy Stickland/INPHO

'Where I’m from, there aren’t too many kids that would captain an Irish side'

Keith Earls says it was an honour to lead Ireland in last night’s win over the Maori All Blacks.

KEITH EARLS SAID it was absolutely vital for Ireland to build on the momentum of last weekend and secure a second win on this five-game New Zealand tour.

The Munster winger captained an experimental Irish side in Wellington last night, guiding them to a 30-24 victory over the Maori All Blacks, to make it two wins from four on this tour, following Saturday’s second Test victory in Dunedin.

“Last weekend was a huge moment for our team and our country and a loss tonight could have spoiled it a little leading into the weekend,” said Earls.

“There was a lot of pressure put on young lads to perform and keep that momentum going and it was extra pressure that they wouldn’t have been used to. So it was very important to deal with that.

“We did – and the thing is now that it’s easier leading into Saturday with everyone on a high.”

caleb-delany-with-keith-earls Earls captains Caleb Delaney. Photosport / Grant Down/INPHO Photosport / Grant Down/INPHO / Grant Down/INPHO

Irish coach, Andy Farrell, added: “That’s certainly true. We put pressure on them ourselves because the Test boys have got a responsibility to show these lads the way and they’ve certainly done that. And it’s those young lads’ responsibility to show them that they’ve learned the way.

“You want to see whether they can cope with or not and they certainly did.”

For Earls, this was a special evening, his first time captaining Ireland, his first time captaining any side since he led out Thomond U14s.

“It has been a long time,” he said.

It’s a huge honour for anyone who captains Ireland but the route from where I’m from – there aren’t too many kids that would captain an Irish side coming from there so it’s genuinely a very proud moment.

“My phone blew up. I know Andy said it wasn’t a Test cap but it definitely was a proud moment to pull on an Irish jersey and lead an Irish team so I’m over the moon with it.”

Earls expressed his admiration for the young half-back pairing, Craig Casey and Ciaran Frawley, whose status has grown on the back of this tour.

“Craig and Frawls at half-back just controlled the game,” said Earls. “There were no decisions to be made out there as a captain because these three lads were leading us around the field as well.

“It’s the best bunch of lads I’ve ever been involved with, with country or club. Everyone’s quite close, everyone is chomping on the bit and as Andy said, the competition is healthy but unbelievable for us as well.”

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