'A big thing is putting things in perspective and it's something I do every minute'

Keith Earls is enjoying the best rugby of his career.

Earls pictured in Carton House earlier today.
Earls pictured in Carton House earlier today.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO


IT CHANGES everything, and as Keith Earls continues to play the best rugby of his career — and consequently is enjoying the game more than ever — he puts it all down to a relaxed attitude. Age and experience help, but it’s about realising that rugby is not the be-all and end-all.

The Munster winger, now 31, is in the form of his life. He’s been one of the outstanding performers this season and that has carried through to the opening two games of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign.

Between his cross-field catch from Johnny Sexton’s kick in Paris, or the try-saving tackle at the death against Italy, Earls has been involved in big moments in this championship so far and will win his 65th cap against Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

“I’m enjoying rugby at the moment and hopefully Saturday can be the same way,” Earls, typically softly spoken, said at Carton House earlier.

“I’ll prepare like it’s any other team but obviously the hype everywhere else is going to be massive but I’m staying nice and relaxed about it.”

The Limerick native has spoken at length about his new outlook before, but now that he is happy in his body and mind, Earls is really reaping the rewards both on and off the field. He has become a priceless asset for Joe Schmidt.

“It’s weird, I can’t help being relaxed now going into games,” he continues.

“A big thing for me is putting things in perspective and it’s something I do every day, every half an hour, every minute. When you have kids, you see some of the stuff that is going on in Syria. And if I needed to be grounded or if I’m worried about a game, I go back and look at that and see how lucky we are.”

Tries, tackles, wins. It’s just rugby, and understanding that has helped Earls perform better than he has ever done before — but Saturday will be a test.

Keith Earls Earls starts on Saturday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Wales are boosted by the return of three of their Lions — Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams and Dan Biggar — and Earls is fully aware of the threat Warren Gatland’s side pose.

“They’re always massive games, always close games,” he continues.

They’re a passionate country and they’re a passionate team as well. They’re always physical games, we regard them as one of the best teams physically, tactically and especially aerially. There is always big talk about the high ball stuff and for me they’re probably one of the best teams at it so it’s going to be a massive challenge. They’re playing quite expansive now and I suppose they can play any way. They can beat you up or play wide as well so it’s going to be a massive test for us.

“We’ve had a close look at them and their players but the most important thing for me is look after myself and get myself right. Hopefully, we can shut down what they throw at us.”

A big part of that for Earls has been working on his aerial ability in recent times, and the hard work has been evident already in this championship.

“It is something we have been working on and I suppose it’s the likes of Andrew Conway, Sweets and the boys in Munster putting pressure on me. It is a big part of rugby now and I suppose I have been doing a lot of eye training as well so I can see the ball running at high speed.

“It’s a massive part of the game and thankfully from the work we’ve put in, some of the results have come through in games.

“It’s a massive part of the game and thankfully from the work we’ve put in, some of the results have come through in games.”

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Keith Earls claims a high ball The winger has been working hard on his aerial skills recently. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

Eye training?

“Yeah, it’s easy stuff you know? Putting an ‘x’ on the window and moving your head back and forward, getting your eyes balanced with the gel in your ears so that when you’re running at high speed that the ball isn’t… you’re trying to look for it.

“I think I said it last week, that it is quite hard to see a ball running at high speed so look, I’m at an age now where every one percent counts.

You can do it at home and some of the lads would be looking at me in the physio room saying ‘what the hell is this fella doing staring at an x on the window’.

“I’ve had a couple of bangs on the head a couple of years ago which kind of knocked my eyes out of sync with the gel in the ears so I went to the Balance Centre in Dublin and got a few exercises.

“I’ve done them for a while, left them behind and I’m back into it again, it’s something I’ve been doing constantly the last couple of weeks.”

Whatever Earls is doing, it’s working.

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