Ireland and Munster legend Keith Earls. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'A true legend' - Keith Earls confirms immediate retirement from rugby

The 36-year-old is hanging his boots up after a brilliant career.

KEITH EARLS HAS confirmed that he will retire from professional rugby with Ireland and Munster with immediate effect at the age of 36.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell hailed “a true legend” of Irish rugby as Earls hangs up his boots after a 16-year professional career that included 101 caps for his country, as well as 202 appearances for Munster.

Earls started all of Ireland’s games in their 2018 Grand Slam success and played in four World Cups in 2011, 2015, 2019, and 2023. He scored 36 tries for Ireland, leaving him second only to Brian O’Driscoll on the all-time try-scoring list.

With Munster, Earls was part of three URC/Celtic League successes and was also in the side that won the 2008 Heineken Cup. Earls toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2009.

“The game of rugby has given me so much and I feel privileged to have represented my home province Munster and Ireland over the course of my career,” said Earls in a statement confirming his retirement.

“I have always tried to be a good friend and team-mate and give all of myself to the jersey, traits inherited from my parents Ger and Sandra and sister Jenny. While retirement is never an easy decision, now is the right time and I feel incredibly fortunate to go out on my own terms representing Ireland on the highest stage.

“To all the coaches, teachers and volunteers who encouraged and guided me in Thomond, Garryowen and Young Munster and at school in St. Munchin’s College, I am indebted to you for your friendship and support over the years. Playing for Munster has given me some of the greatest days of my life. The victories, the heartaches, the camaraderie and the friendships with so many players, coaches and support staff over the years has positively impacted my life more than you will ever know.

keith-earls-and-his-family-celebrate-with-the-urc-trophy Earls lifts the URC trophy with his daughters. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

“Being a Munster supporter growing up, before I even got the chance to pull on the jersey meant that I appreciated every moment to represent my province across my 202 appearances. I was so honoured to be a part of our URC success last season and I have no doubt that it will be a launchpad for the squad to soar even higher in the years to come.

“When I was young I never imagined I would get to represent my country once, never mind 101 times. Playing for Ireland meant the world to me and it has been an honour to pull on the jersey and represent our great nation.

“To all the Ireland coaches, players, support staff and supporters who have backed me throughout my career – thank you from the bottom of my heart. Finally, to my wife Edel, children Ella-May, Laurie and Emie – thank you for your unconditional love and support over the years. I couldn’t have made this journey without you.”


Ireland head coach Andy Farrell:

“Keith Earls is a true legend of Irish rugby and it has been an enormous privilege to work with him over the last seven years. A gifted and committed outside back, Keith’s influence transcends his on-field achievements, of which there were many, both for Munster and Ireland.

“Keith was also a leader and an incredibly positive force and he will be missed. On behalf of the Ireland team and management, I would like to thank Keith for his contribution to the game and wish him, his wife Edel and their family the very best of luck with the next exciting chapter in their lives.”

Munster head coach Graham Rowntree:

“Earlsie is an icon of Munster and Irish rugby. It’s hard to imagine Munster Rugby without Keith Earls and he has given so much to this province. He is an incredibly popular member of the squad and the ultimate Munster man, always putting the team first. With more than 200 Munster appearances, over 100 Ireland caps, touring with the Lions… he’s seen and done it all.

keith-earls-celebrates-with-his-daughters-ella-may-laurie-and-emie-and-wife-edel-after-the-game Earls with his family. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Supporters absolutely love him for being the man that he is and he deserves all of the praise that comes his way. We will miss him but I am delighted that he is retiring on his own terms. Scoring that brilliant try for Ireland on his 100th cap was a great way to mark a special occasion and I’m so pleased that his last game for Munster ended with him lifting the URC trophy, no-one deserved it more.”

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora:

“Keith will rightfully go down as a true great of Irish rugby and he has made a lasting impression which will endure. He possessed great speed, skill and bravery and testament to his durability is that he retained such a high level of performance right until the very end, scoring a try on his 100th appearance for Ireland against England in August.

“I have no doubt that Keith will continue to shine in the future and I would like to thank him for his professionalism and dedication to Irish rugby over the last 16 years.”

- This article was updated at 3.10pm to correct an error stating that Earls had played in three World Cups, rather than four.

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