Back to work for 'buzzing' Earls
Keith Earls has been asked to fill some of the biggest boots in world rugby despite having his preparations for Ireland's RBS 6 Nations opener interrupted by the birth of his first child.
Earls will start at outside centre against Wales on Sunday, filling the void left by the absence of Brian O'Driscoll who is to miss the entire championship after undergoing shoulder surgery.
"There's a lot of things happening for Keith at the moment and he's buzzing," said coach Declan Kidney. "It's extenuating circumstances and whereas he wasn't the one to have the child, it's still a big day for any man, so we've tried to give him a bit of space."
He added: "We must remember these guys are people first and players second.
"When something like this happens in your life it's only right that you're given some space.
"If it's your first you're inclined to take a day or two to enjoy it. Maybe if it's your fifth or sixth you wouldn't be taking the day off!
"Life is like that sometimes - you just have to go with the flow."
Fergus McFadden, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble were also in the frame to partner Gordon D'Arcy in midfield, but Earls has had greater exposure to the position.
In recent weeks Ireland's leading try-scorer at last autumn's World Cup has played at 13 for Munster, excelling against Northampton but otherwise having only limited impact.
"Keith is looking forward to it and has played well there for Munster," said Kidney. "Players just want to play so they know they need to adapt. Keith's had a lot of time at 13 and is comfortable there."