'Keith has been one of the standout performers - Tommy Bowe pays glowing tribute to Earls after matching try record
Tommy Bowe has hailed Keith Earls' remarkable achievement of drawing level with his record of having scored 30 tries for Ireland following his score in Sunday's win over France.
The pair currently sit in second place on the all-time list and are 16 tries behind Brian O'Driscoll's impressive tally.
Bowe played with Earls while the Moyross native was still trying to find his feet at international level and although it took him time to settle, the former Ulster wing, who won 69 caps for Ireland, has been impressed with his form over the last couple of years.
"He is playing so well," Bowe, who was speaking at a Guinness event ahead of Saturday's final day of the Six Nations, said.
"Even in terms of the Irish team that hasn't been hitting the levels that we expect over the last couple of weeks, I still think Keith has been one of the standout performers.
"For him to be level on second with me, I think it has been coming for a while and I would imagine in the next couple of matches, he will surpass me.
"And probably by the time the World Cup comes around, Jacob Stockdale could be nearly passed me as well.
"Listen, it was a big thing for me when I retired to finish second. It was something I was very proud of but I knew it wasn't going to last very long."
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Earls has publicly admitted that struggled with nerves in the early part of his career but having matured over the years, he has learned to channel them in the right manner.
Bowe saw the effects of that nervousness first-hand and believes that Earls has transformed himself so much so that he has become an important figure in Joe Schmidt's squad.
"He has definitely cemented his place in the team now," Bowe added.
"He is a very quiet guy and I think he is a bit of a leader in the squad.
"He is a very level, consistent performer and is a good guy for a lot of the young guys to talk to about different areas of their game. Having him around the squad has been brilliant.
"I remember early in his career, he used to get extremely nervous before matches. He used to get stomach cramps and all sorts before games. It really got to him.
"Whereas I think in the last couple of years, he has literally tried to take all of the pressure off himself.
"We all know he has got so much potential and is such an incredible player with ball in hand. To be able just unleash that, it shows that it has obviously worked for him.
"I think that has kind of fed through to the likes of Jacob and maybe even Jordan Larmour at the weekend."