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Becoming a family man has made me a much better player: Earls

By Cian Tracey

Keith Earls no longer sweats the small stuff. For a man who once looked at rugby as the be all and end all, he has come to learn that life goes on outside of the oval ball.

The Moyross native always, without fail, shoots from the hip, and for that we should be thankful.

Since Anthony Foley passed away last year, Earls has been a beacon in terms of the leadership role he has played within the Munster squad, and also the way in which he has continuously offered an honest and heartfelt insight into what goes on inside the four walls of the dressing-room.

Nowadays, a bad training session is left behind at the University of Limerick. After all, once he reaches home he has two daughters who instantly put a smile on his face.

"Yeah, I'm enjoying rugby in general," Earls admits. "I suppose I used to think it was everything, rugby, but when you really think about it, it doesn't really mean that much to you. Why would you get worked up about it?

"Obviously you're passionate about it and you want to go out and achieve things and give your best every time, but at the end of the day it's only a small thing in life," he says ahead of the big Boxing Day clash at home to Leinster.

"The lads in the squad who've had kids now as well, I think that's why we're playing so well, we've so many kids around that fellas don't care any more," he laughs. "I think that's it, we're all enjoying it and it's easier when you're enjoying it."

Last year, Earls bemoaned the fact it took the passing of their head coach for some players to stand up and be counted, but this season has been different.

The move to a single base in Limerick has helped further the bond amongst a group of players who genuinely believe that they are on the cusp of something special.

"This is a standards club, we expect them to go through the roof," he says.

The hamstring injury that Earls picked up in Ireland training last month might have come as an even bigger setback once upon a time, but his new outlook on things allowed him to roll with the punches more easily.

Last weekend he returned as an unused sub in Leicester and, although it's a position that he hasn't found himself in too often, the competition for places in the back-three is as fierce as it has been for some time.

"I think it's the first time it's happened to me with Munster," Earls smiles.

"It was unusual. (Coach) Johann (van Graan) apologised to me. I don't know why I didn't get on but I do know the lads were doing well, the back-three was clicking and the two boys in the centre, it was just all working."

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