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Rugby World Cup: Keith Earls is fighting fit and seizing his big opportunity with Ireland

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

To some, Keith Earls is living the dream but Ireland's form player is simply keeping the wolf from the door.

This is his job, one he loves and was born to do if only his body would play ball. He's been through too many tough days not to appreciate a good thing when it's going and he's hoping to prolong it as long as possible.

Earls is currently injury-free, but is still frequenting the physio room, his weights load has been reduced to protect his knees and the focus of his time away from rugby has been on recovery and rest.

Before bed each night, he takes out the foam roller and a ball and works at the trigger points to relieve stress in his muscles. The job is all-consuming and he is working hard to ensure he continues to contribute to this World Cup.

Four years ago, he turned 24 at the World Cup as he topped Ireland's try-scoring list.

He celebrates another birthday this Friday and the time in between has been eventful on and off the pitch.

"Yeah, I've had two kids in the time being as well. I've grown up, got engaged and everything," he said of his fiancée Edel and children Ella Maye and Laurie. "It's been a busy four years.

"It's very tough (being away) but it's also motivating, you know? It's probably something that motivates me the most; this is my job - I'm out here keeping the wolf from the door and that kind of motivates you.

"You have FaceTime and stuff too, it makes it a bit easier but you do miss the hugs and that. But when you've a good woman at home it makes it a lot easier."

This week, Ireland's players have been given some space and everyone has been allocated their own room.

Up until this, Earls has been sharing with captain Paul O'Connell and the duo appear to have tried to recreate the spirit of Limerick's Tom Clifford Park.

"The TV doesn't go on in our room. He might do a bit of reading, I do a bit of reading and we chat about the old days," he said.

"He's played with my father, I've been around Paul when he was playing with Young Munster and I travelled on buses as a young lad. We talk about the characters that were in Young Munster."

Earls' father Ger got a kick out of seeing him pack down on the side of the scrum during O'Connell's time in the sin-bin against Canada, but it's on the wing where he's doing his damage right now.

Last week's two tries against Romania came on top of a physically dominant performance at Cardiff and he is in the form of his life.

On Sunday, he drew level with Brian O'Driscoll as Ireland's all-time leading World Cup try-scorer at seven and he hasn't heard a word from his former team-mate.

"Drico wouldn't even look at that himself and, to be honest, I don't really look at it either," he explained.

"It's an individual thing and it's all about the team, it's nice to score tries but I'd prefer the team to be winning.

"The big focus is on my body. I'm 24/7 trying to look after it.

"I've no niggles, I've nothing, which is great. I'm getting my work done early in the week regarding our moves and stuff, our game-plan, and I just seem more relaxed at the weekend."

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