Lucky 13 as eager Earls revels in new posting for Ireland

Keith Earls is really enjoying filling the void left by Ireland’s most iconic player.

With Brian O’Driscoll recovering from a shoulder surgery, Earls has been entrusted with the skipper’s number 13 jersey for this Six Nations campaign.

Rather than be overawed by the task, the Limerick flyer is relishing every second of his new posting. Earls admitted errors in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Wales acted as a motivation to silence critics and prove his credentials in such a pivotal role.

He said: “I made a couple of mistakes in defence in the World Cup. No excuses but I should have gone off that time when I got hit by Jamie Roberts. It would have been easier for me to go off, but I wanted to stay on and help the lads and I made a couple of silly decisions — that happens in rugby.

“Since then, I just wanted to get out there and prove everyone wrong, show everyone I am capable of taking over from Brian and that 13 is my position. I felt good in my defence (against Italy) and it is something I have been working on since I got back from the World Cup.

“I know my attack is there but I’ve been using Donnacha Ryan as a battering ram during training so it is all about defence from here on for me. The (settling in) process is gone, I’ve been playing there all my life.

“Obviously I’ve played on the wing at times in the last few years, which went against my versatility — playing on the wing and going in to full-back. I spoke to Tony (McGahan) when I came back from the World Cup and said that I wanted to be a 13, I feel more comfortable, I want to be in the mix.

“He was all for it, I just had to prove to him I was worthy of playing 13 and he gave me my chance. I have worked hard at training and thankfully he trusted me and it’s been good since.”

Earls also feels he is developing a good working relationship with midfield partner Gordon D’Arcy.

“Without having watched it I think we worked well together. In attack, even (managed) a few line breaks. In defence there were no issues. We haven’t played with each other that much and he is used to Drico, so it will take a while.

“We’re confident with each other and we know each other well. I don’t think we did anything bad and our confidence will only build.”

Game-time and victory on Saturday was especially sweet for Earls who missed out on the defeat to Wales as his newborn baby Ella-Maye was ill.

He said: “It was good. On a personal note it was good to get back, it’s been five weeks since I played. It was a good, tough, physical game but I enjoyed it, especially the second half — we scored some good tries.”

And how he would love more of the same in Paris on Sunday. “You just have to go out and do the easy things first. I’m buzzing, I haven’t played in five weeks and hopefully I’ll relish the chance to play against one of the best centres (Rougerie) and one of the best partnerships in the world.”

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