Earls hoping for picture perfect Paris performance
Keith Earls was so moved when watching Ireland's last victory in Paris that he was inspired to draw a picture of hero Brian O'Driscoll.
The 27-25 RBS 6 Nations triumph in 2000 catapulted O'Driscoll, only 21 at the time, into the wider rugby consciousness with a stunning hat-trick of tries. It was Ireland's first win on French soil for 28 years and the lean pickings since have only served to give a treasured moment in the history of the championship and Irish rugby greater lustre. As an impressionable 12-year-old, Earls was enthralled by the occasion and a decade on he is amazed by his own involvement alongside O'Driscoll in the same fixture.
"I remember watching the game at home on the weekend and then going into school on the Monday, I remember drawing a picture of Brian scoring a try and having three French fellas crying behind him!" he said.
"It's my first Six Nations start on Saturday and I still pinch myself to make sure that it's happening."
Earls' rapid rise through the ranks that peaked with last summer's selection as a bolter for the Lions tour after winning just two caps, points to a precocious talent comfortable with the demands of his sport.
But the versatile Munster winger admits to suffering from acute nerves that have been eased with the assistance of sports psychologist Gerry Hussey - and football great Diego Maradona.
"I've been working a lot with Gerry and he's been brilliant," said Earls, who will be winning his seventh cap on Saturday.
"I try not to think about the game until I hit the dressing room.
"Even during the warm up I try to wonder about as if nothing is happening and there's no big game.
"I'll also watch You Tube clips of Maradona warming up. He used to do all these skills and play up to the crowd. He was so relaxed but sill performed brilliantly under pressure. I look at that and try to stay cool."