Wednesday 21 February 2018

Earls eager to show he can fill void left by O'Driscoll

Keith Earls. Photo: Sportsfile
Keith Earls. Photo: Sportsfile

Hugh Farrelly

KEITH EARLS "can't wait" to prove that he is capable of filling Brian O'Driscoll's No 13 jersey when Ireland take on Italy at Lansdowne Road tomorrow.

The 24-year-old missed Ireland's Six Nations opener against Wales after his new-born daughter fell ill but, although he has not played for five weeks and has massive shoes to fill at outside-centre, Earls is itching to show what he can do.

"I can't wait to get out there," said Earls. "Unfortunately, for family reasons and then the French game being called off, Munster versus Northampton (on January 21) was my last game, but it is not like my fitness is down, I've still been training and I feel sharp.

"If you ask Brian himself and other No 13s, it is probably the hardest place on the pitch to defend and it is obviously a lot tighter when you are attacking as well, you are creating spaces for fellas.

"But it is a good challenge -- it brings the best out in yourself and other players if you can get through gaps and free them up.

"My last game for Ireland, in the World Cup quarter-final, was probably my worst in an Ireland jersey. I just want to get back out there and show Irish fans that I'm capable of taking over the No 13 jersey."

Meanwhile, All Blacks legend John Kirwan has thrown his hat into the ring for the Munster coaching job.

The former Italy and Japan coach was recently linked with the soon-to-be-vacant job at Ulster, but said he would be interested in taking over at Munster if he were approached.

"I am not working at the moment and I am certainly looking for a team that is keen on winning a lot of stuff and I know that Munster are. If they rang me, I would certainly talk to them," Kirwan told Today FM, where he was promoting the work of depression charity Lean On Me along with ex-Munster player Alan Quinlan.

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