Earls reveals pre-World Cup jaw scare and hails Conway
Keith Earls has conceded that his poor tackle technique almost cost him his place at the World Cup.
The Munster flier has revealed that he fractured his jaw in the warm-up game against Wales and feared he might not make the plane.
Ultimately, he started all of Ireland's games and broke Brian O'Driscoll's World Cup try-scoring record at the tournament, but he might not have made it. The IRFU reported the injury as a concussion at the time, but the full extent of the blow suffered when making a second-half tackle has now emerged.
Earls suffered a suspected concussion against Edinburgh two weeks ago, prompting fears he might have to be stood down, but he cleared the protocols and was available to start against Treviso last weekend.
And he says he is working to improve his tackling to try and avoid further head injuries.
"It is just tackle technique," he said. "You practise all week but I suppose when you go out on the pitch and it happens under pressure you tend to go back into your safety mechanism.
"Tackle technique nearly cost me a World Cup against Wales, I fractured my jaw the week before that. I was blessed that it was only a cosmetic thing that I didnt need to worry about and it isn't too bad now even so it healed up within two weeks.
"It is a concern you know, a lot of concussions are down to tackle technique but, as my father would say, you're better off putting them on the ground than missing.
"It's individual (training) as well but we started using the bags a bit now you know because you don't want to be getting bumps and bruises the week leading into an important game. If we've a weekend off we might do a bit of contact on the Tuesday but I think good habits are the main thing and I think it's something that should be brought in from a really young age. Teaching lads proper tackle technique, even if it means walking through - just getting them into good habits."
Meanwhile, Earls hailed the impact of full-back Andrew Conway who has stepped into the vacancy left by Felix Jones' retirement and done well, prompting coach Anthony Foley to re-iterate his calls for the Dubliner to be capped by Ireland.
"Felix was a great leader for us, a consistent performer," Earls said. "Andrew has slotted in there well.
"He seems to be in a good place now and he is even one of the fellas who is stepping up and speaking in meetings. It's great.
"We lost a leader (Felix), but Andrew has come in. He is chatting and taking over. We haven't gone backwards in the full-back position."