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Cruel blow for in-form Earls as training injury set to rule him out of series

The Munster man is replaced in Ireland’s starting XV by team-mate Andrew Conway.

Earls sustained the injury on Tuesday.
Earls sustained the injury on Tuesday.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

DUE TO START for Ireland against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium, Keith Earls is now set to miss the entire November series after tearing his hamstring in training during the week.

The Munster winger has been cruelly denied the chance to continue his sensational form in a green shirt with Earls likely to be sidelined for up to six weeks with the problem he sustained on Tuesday.

It is a desperately unfortunate setback for the 30-year-old, who has been in the form of his career having scored nine tries in his last Test 10 appearances, including four during a standout summer tour of USA and Japan.

“He picked it up on Tuesday, and it was a surprise to him and us,” Joe Schmidt said of the injury.

“It’s a hamstring injury, and I think it’s going ot make it certainly a struggle for next week, and potentially the week after. So he will be a doubt for the series at this point.

“We’re disappointed and so is he because he was sensational for us in Japan in the summer. Not only his on-field actions but the way he led the young players, that was a another role he had fully embraced in this camp.

“He’s the consummate professional, a class player, that rapid acceleration. But what a fantastic chance for Andrew Conway and Darren Sweetnam.”

With Simon Zebo in international exile and neither Tommy Bowe or Andrew Trimble in the squad, the door has now opened for Earls’ Munster team-mate Andrew Conway.

The uncapped Darren Sweetnam takes his place on the bench having been preferred to Leinster’s Adam Byrne.

The 26-year-old made his long-awaited international debut against England in the final game of last year’s Six Nations and two more appearances in June was enough to earn him a place in this November panel.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt speaking to the press at Carton House earlier. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

He has been promoted from the bench and will start in an Ireland back three which includes 21-year-old Jacob Stockdale and the more experienced Rob Kearney.

The inclusion of 31-year-old Kearney, who has played just 187 minutes of rugby this term, was the other main talking point to come from Schmidt’s selection.

Despite stating that he favoured form in the decision to start Cian Healy over Jack McGrath at tighthead, the head coach opted for the tried and trusted option in Kearney as opposed to Joey Carbery.

Asked for his thinking behind his decision, Schmidt said: “This time last year I think people were questioning Rob’s involvement, but I don’t think we’d have won in Chicago without him.

“Those are the attacking threats in the air and on the ground, it’s that experience. For those guys in the back-three I think Rob’s going to be really important, helping to navigate those guys around the pitch.

“First of all, form players, we wanted to reward players who had been going well for their provinces, and then add a bit of experience. And I think we’ve got both.”

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Ryan Bailey

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