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I'm ready to deliver after injury concerns, vows under-pressure Earls

 

Good form: Keith Earls praised Andrew Conway’s display
Good form: Keith Earls praised Andrew Conway’s display

By Cian Tracey

It is difficult not to feel for Keith Earls, wheeled out for media duties last week despite knowing he wasn't going to be involved in the opening game with Scotland.

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At the time, Joe Schmidt had not publicly named his team - so Earls was forced to play along and pretend he was in the running to take on the Scots.

When the stretcher was summoned during Ireland's final warm-up game against Wales, it looked as though Earls wouldn't feature at any of the World Cup, let alone the first game.

Thankfully his knee injury was not as bad as first feared, but he admits now that it would have been a "massive risk" to play last weekend. Instead, he was given extra time to recover, with the long game in mind.

"It was something that was bother­ing me for a week or two leading up into that (Wales game)," he explains.

"I probably came back a small bit too early for that, obviously to try and put my hand up for selection and get on the plane. I kind of had to push it a bit.

"Thankfully it wasn't too seri­ous and thankfully I was on the plane. I'm looking forward to getting a run out this week.

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"There is a lot of pressure on (me) after the way the lads played at the weekend."

Earls returns to the back three for Saturday's clash with Japan and, after Andrew Conway's continuation of his impressive form, he knows that he has to deliver.

"It doesn't surprise me the way he (Conway) played," Earls maintains.

"I am around him quite a bit, he is unbelievably professional. I see how he prepares for games, I see how he looks after himself.

"It didn't bother me at all because I know how hard he works. I suppose it's a nice little battle now for the back three. Whatever happens, we will just keep pushing each other. He is a world class player. There is no doubt about it. So is Jordo (Lar­mour).

"I think the back three last week­end were brilliant. The three of them making their debut in a World Cup.

"As I said, I think it's a good thing for all of us and a good thing for the coaches that no one owns the jersey any more.

"It's about giving the coaches a headache and keeping each other on the top of our games."

Schmidt has selection headaches all over the pitch, including the back three, but the one he has picked to play Japan is his preferred trio.

Earls has been part of plenty of good squads, but he believes this one is right up there.

"Yeah definitely, it's very hard to pick a team. It's a good thing for us and probably a bad thing for coaches with headaches, it probably is a good thing for them."

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