Earls leads kids on work experience abroad
It’s inevitable that in the current circumstances, where 23 of the touring squad have caps somewhere between zero and 10, that Keith Earls stands out. When you talk about lads in line for Lions call-ups, he was an original selection when the Lions went to South Africa in 2009. A lifetime ago.
“I feel very, very old now,” he says. “It’s bizarre. I was only chatting to Ringer (Garry Ringrose) and Joey (Carbery) yesterday, and I asked Joey, ‘What age are you now, 22?’ and he was like, ‘No, 21’, and I remember when I used to be saying that to fellas. There’s a famous story when I was running around the pitch with John Kelly and I was asking him when he was finishing and stuff. I was just a young fella. I’m 30 this year now and it’s crazy how fast things have gone.”
Earls is not exactly a Luddite but he’s struck by the intense stare he sees from the young crew as they engage with their phones. By nature he keeps his head down, but not for checking the latest online.
So when they were off gallivanting around New York yesterday on a down day Earls (right) was hanging out around the team hotel, across the Hudson. On a nice day it affords a lovely view of the Manhattan skyline. That’s enough to keep him happy. There are worse places to be.
“It is, it’s a great experience. New York is an unbelievable place to go, but you have to be careful not to take it as a holiday, with the young lads they can get distracted a small bit but it’s great to experience different cultures and especially in Japan in a week. A few of the young lads will be around for the World Cup as well, which will be good. I’ve never been to Japan before. It’ll be quite interesting.”
Earls’s journey is well removed from that of the young fellas who will surround him in the Red Bull Arena on Saturday. It was more unforgiving when he was making his way up – both from senior players in his own squad to outsiders looking in. The speed with which he was cut down in the media for his ordinary enough opener on the 2009 Lions tour was instructive. He looked a bit lost back then. Now he is all sage and wisdom. And for him, reflecting on Munster’s season is a painful experience.
‘Yeah, I haven’t really spoken about it. It was genuinely an exhausting year, mentally and physically with some of the things we had to go through. Obviously that final, I genuinely thought we were going to win.
“We knew the Scarlets were an excellent team but with everything that went on this year you’d think the rugby gods would do something, but that just shows rugby can be a cruel sport. During that 20 minutes, the Scarlets ripped us apart and their last 10 or 12 games of the season they played phenomenal rugby.”
At least it gives him fuel to pass on to the kids on this Ireland tour. And the message it simple enough.
“It’s all about performing under pressure,” he says. “James Ryan, he probably has a chance to play for Ireland before he gets to play for Leinster. I suppose it’s international, it’s at a world stage and they’re quite young. I know Joe will put a lot of pressure under them to see how they will react. Moving forward, it’s up to them how they look after themselves, how they recover and how they get on mentally. This is going be nothing like they’re used to. It’s going to be completely different to underage or club (level). I’d say he’ll be keeping an eye on them off the pitch as well just to see that they’re not enjoying themselves too much.”
Earls might give him a hand.