Earls favours relaxed approach
Ireland winger Keith Earls has abandoned the pre-match rituals that were affecting his sanity in favour of a more relaxed attitude to playing.
Earls will continue to deputise for Brian O'Driscoll at outside centre in Saturday's critical IRB rankings showdown with Argentina at Aviva Stadium. Nerves have plagued the 25-year-old Lion throughout his 33-cap Test career, forcing him to make some adjustments to a routine that was causing too much anguish.
"At the start of the season I gave up all my superstitions because they were driving me mad," he said.
"If I didn't have Rosary Beads or didn't have this or that, then....
"I had three particular Rosary Beads....I'd kiss one three times and another four times. If I'd forgotten my Rosary Beads I'd think 'I can't play now'. I tried to have a routine and not think about the game because if I thought about it I'd drive myself mad."
A meeting with Ireland's amateur boxing team - and Olympic silver medalist Kenny Egan in particular - arranged by the management before the Guinness Series began proved eye-opening.
For a player who battles to keep his temperament even before a game, taking an almost blase approach has proved hugely beneficial.
"When the boxers came in a couple of weeks ago Kenny Egan said he is laughing and joking 15 minutes before he boxes," he said. "Once it reaches 15 minutes before the fight, he's just thinking about the fight, but before that he's joking.
"Now I prefer just to get off the bus and play the game. It seems to be working for me. In the warm-up area I'll play a bit of handball with a tennis ball with the lads.
"We'll play some music and I'll take a look at pictures of my family and daughter. It keeps your mind off things - you have to do what's right for you."