Keith Earls: Ireland buoyant ahead of Paris clash
KEITH Earls insists Ireland's spirits have been lifted for their daunting trip to Paris by their resounding RBS 6 Nations victory over Italy.
The Irish emerged 42-10 winners at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday to haul themselves back into title contention following their loss to Wales three weeks ago.
Their next assignment is Six Nations favourites France in a rearranged fixture postponed because of a frozen pitch.
A solitary victory since 1972 is all the Irish have to show from four decades of campaigning in Paris, but Earls admits their confidence is rising.
"We're happy. That was a big scoreline for us against Italy," he said.
"After the Welsh game we wanted to go out and prove ourselves.
"There were a lot of bruised bodies at the end because it was so physical, but we're happy.
"It's a good note on which to be going to the Stade de France next week."
Ireland led just 17-10 at the interval but took full advantage of Italy's second-half collapse to register a much-needed victory.
Tommy Bowe crossed twice while Tom Court, Andrew Trimble and Earls also touched down with Jonathan Sexton kicking 17 points.
"Not much was said at half-time. We knew it was going to take 60-odd minutes to break Italy down," said Earls.
"We got in some good positions in the field in the first half but their defence was good and there were a couple of mistakes from ourselves.
"We knew we had to be direct in the second half, which we did and the scores came from that.
"The second half was a lot better and we got our second wind and some good scores. The back line clicked so it was good."
While Earls showed signs against Italy that he is capable of replacing Brian O'Driscoll at outside centre, far greater tests than the Azzurri midfield await.
French pair AurElien Rougerie and Wesley Fofana will provide a stiff examination of his partnership with Gordon D'Arcy on Sunday.
"Gordon and I haven't played with each other that much and he is used to Brian, so it will take a while before we're used to each other," he said.
"We're confident together and know each other well. I don't think we did anything bad against Italy and our confidence will only grow from here."