Keith Earls has been leaning on the talents of world-renowned mentalist and magician Keith Barry in an attempt to maximise his current run of fine form, writes Brendan O'Brien.
The Munster and Ireland wing has spoken openly and honestly about the confidence issues he wrestled with earlier in his career and how he has learned to relax and enjoy the game more as maturity dawned and his thirties approached.
He admitted at Ireland’s team HQ on Monday afternoon that he is now, aged 30, enjoying his rugby more than at any time since he was a 13-year old growing up in Limerick. A professional since 2007, rugby no longer feels like work.
“When you’re enjoying something and it doesn’t seem like work you enjoy it a lot more,” he explained ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Scotland. “It’s what a lot of us do. It is our job, but we think it is everything, which it isn’t.
“I have been relaxing a bit as well. As I am getting older I am trying to find the one per cents between diet and stuff, the psychology and the visualisation; I have been working a bit with Keith Barry as well, just trying to get them one per cents, which seems to be working.
“I don’t want to get into the detail but he knows the brain better than anyone and just in terms of visualisation and stuff like that.”
Earls also works with Enda McNulty, the former Armagh footballer and performance coach who has worked with a wide variety of sportspeople and in other spheres of life too. It all certainly seems to be paying off.
The Moyross man has been sensational in this Six Nations, picking up where he left off with Ireland on tour last summer and on the list of consistently excellent performances he has been inputting with Munster this season and last.
The only thing to have come close to stopping him lately seems to have been Storm Emma, which made the trip to the team's Kildare HQ that bit more onerous.
“It wasn’t too bad getting out of Limerick (on Sunday) but when we got to Straffan it was like a different world,” he explained. “We can’t do anything about it. We are heading out to a new training pitch now. We’ll just get on with our work.”
Members of Barnhall RFC had been helping to clear the training surface at Carton House on Monday but the pitch was still not ready for training, which left Joe Schmidt and his squad having to move down the road to Abbotstown for the afternoon.
The IRFU has a site on the National Sports Campus premises and it was on the union’s Sevens pitch that the side trained. It is expected that it will be business as usual at Carton House again on Tuesday.