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'It's gas, he hasn't lost it': ROG shows off silky skills at Ireland training

Keith Earls is enjoying spending time with his former team-mate in New Jersey.

Ireland back Keith Earls.
Ireland back Keith Earls.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

John Fallon reports from New Jersey

KEITH EARLS SAYS Ronan O’Gara has not lost any of the touches which made him one of the stars of world rugby.

The 40-year old linked up with the Irish coaching ticket in Carton House last week and will continue his involvement until after Saturday’s clash with the USA at the Red Bull Arena.

And Earls, now one of the elder players with this inexperienced Irish touring party, said that ROG has been impressing the new kids on the block with some silky skills.

“It’s gas. He joined in for one of the sessions last week and he’ll still pull it off I’ll tell ya. He hasn’t lost it. He’s still the same size. Whether the lungs are good enough, I don’t know but he’s looked after himself.

“Coming on this tour, he’s been at club level for a couple of years and is probably looking to progress. That’s why he’s probably come here to learn off some of the best.

“I suppose from a player’s point of view, having him around he’s done it under incredible pressure at massive tournaments and who knows… he wouldn’t be a bad choice to have around (at a later stage).

“ROG is just keeping his head down. He’s going around with his notebook and he’s learning off the coaches as well, but in fairness to him, if something pops up on the video he’ll open his mouth, as he did as a player as well.

It’s great. He’s living in Paris so I don’t get to see him as much as when we used to play together so it’s great to catch up. I consider him a really good friend.

Earls, 29, is the second most capped player on this tour to the USA and Japan and is happy to play a fatherly role to a squad with eight uncapped players and 15 more who have less than 10 appearances at this level.

Earls, with 59 caps — Cian Healy is the most experienced on the three-match tour with 67 — reckons the emerging players are better equipped to make the grade.

“Everyone’s different, I suppose, I had all the help in the world too. The biggest issue I had when I was younger is I was trying to be like so many other players rather than myself.

“The last couple of years I’ve figured out who I am and what I want to do. I did have all the help in the world, but I was still trying to figure out what I was comfortable with.
“A lot of these younger lads now they know what they want, which is great.

I would have been looking at someone like Doug Howlett when he first came over, Jean de Villiers, watching World Cups…

“They don’t fear as much as we did. For a few of us growing up, ten years ago, it was tough love off the older fellas, that seems to be gone a bit now.

“It’s a lot more relaxed now. The younger fellas know what’s expected of them now, which is great,” said Earls, speaking at the team base in New Jersey.

Ronan O'Gara at Ireland training this week. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With 11 players on Lions duty and a handful more out through injury — out-half Paddy Jackson is also unavailable for this clash on Saturday for ‘personal reasons’ — it’s an opportunity for Joe Schmidt to experiment.

Earls believes the young guns can gain valuable experience against the USA and in the two Tests against Japan.

“It’s a great experience. New York is an unbelievable place to go, but you have to be careful not to take it as a holiday, with the young lads they can get distracted a small bit but it’s great to experience different cultures and especially in Japan in a week.

“A few of the young lads will be around for the World Cup as well, which will be good. I’ve never been to Japan before, it’ll be quite interesting.”

Earls is available if any of the young players need advice but he believes they are meeting the demands just fine.

I wouldn’t go out of my way trying to annoy a fella, but if he wanted a chat, or if one of the younger lads was struggling or missing home or whatever, I’d ask him if he wanted to go for a coffee, or whatever, the offer is there.

“But it’s been great so far, we’re starting to really get to know each other now and get used to the younger personalities, it’s gas. They’re in a different world with social media etc.”

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John Fallon

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