Belfast Telegraph

Pride in Ireland jersey meant I would never have moved abroad: Earls


Almost ready: Keith Earls at Munster training after injury
Almost ready: Keith Earls at Munster training after injury

By Daragh Small

Munster winger Keith Earls says the desire to stay playing international rugby was too hard to turn down when he was tempted away from the province.

The 30-year-old Ireland international was linked with a move to Saracens prior to signing a three-year contract extension with Munster in January 2016.

And with Munster captain Peter O'Mahony and fellow international back-row CJ Stander both being linked with moves abroad, Earls says he could never have left.

"Obviously there is the Lions, but playing for Ireland, for your country, is the highest standard, and you want to test yourself every year," said Earls.

"The Six Nations is a massive tournament, the November internationals are always challenging when you get to play against the southern hemisphere. It's huge, it's a lot to give up to head away to France or England or wherever.

"And getting to play with the club I grew up loving (that's why I stayed). Home comforts are great, but sometimes fellas like a challenge, and some fellas want to see if the grass is greener and that's always in the back of your mind.

"It's the perfect career to try a different lifestyle as well."

Simon Zebo has announced his intentions to leave Munster at the end of 2017-18, with France the chosen destination, while it is believed others will follow. And Earls says this time of the year is tough on players who are out of contract at the end of the season.

"It's starting to creep in a small bit that players are leaving the Irish provinces a bit more than we would like," said Earls.

"It's always the worst time of the year, you are just trying to sort things out. You just want to play rugby but you want to make sure your family and yourself are being looked after as well. It is a tough time but hopefully it will get a bit easier."

The Limerick native tore his hamstring while in Ireland camp prior to the November internationals but is aiming to return for Munster's crunch Guinness PRO14 derby against Leinster on December 26.

And, although he misses another big game against Leicester Tigers tomorrow night, Earls says it's great to see his team-mate Ian Keatley playing his best rugby for province and country.

"It is brilliant to see Keats hitting the form that we knew he could hit. He has put it down to the birth of his daughter," said Earls.

"He was a fella that used to think too much about rugby and everything was rugby for him. He is nice and relaxed now. It was proven last week and in the autumn."

Meanwhile, Glasgow have pitched in Scotland international Huw Jones for a debut in their European Champions Cup clash with Montpellier tonight.

The centre will line up at Scotstoun against a side coached by Vern Cotter, the man who gave him his first international cap.

Warriors head coach Dave Rennie said of the recent arrival: "Here's hoping that he hits the ground running for us."

Belfast Telegraph


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