Keith Earls: Social side of rugby is a thing of past

Rugby still a social sport? Forget that, says Keith Earls.
Keith Earls: Social side of rugby is a thing of past

Earls’ father Ger played for Young Munster and Munster, worked his socks off and, like all of his colleagues, probably partied a bit as well, but with his own money.

When the senior member of the family scored a sensational try to give his local club their first and only All-Ireland League title in 1993, there weren’t too many sober heads inside or outside the squad for many days in the vicinity of Limerick’s famous Yellow Road.

Fast forward, Ger’s son Keith has just come in off a bit of a break, he had played/trained non-stop for just shy of 12 months, taking in Ireland’s tour to South Africa.

“We finished up on the 25th June this year, and we started on the 27th June last year. Thankfully, the body held up, but with the season we had with Munster, as well, mentally it was tough.”

His last blowout was on July 1 – his wedding!

“I’d say before that it was end of season with the lads. I’d say maybe four times a year max that I would have a couple of drinks. You might have a glass of wine while out for dinner. But it’s not much.

“We’re expected to come back to pre-season fit, you’re constantly having to watch your diet, watch your drinking and your lifestyle. If you go out play a game and have a few pints then you’re still recovering Wednesday or Thursday, it’s not good for the body.”

The view that rugby is still more sociable than other sports is gone, he insisted. “That’s completely gone, it’s all year round now. You have to do it (occasionally) to get to know your teammates, maybe over a few pints, but it’s not done as much as when my father played.”

Although Earls wouldn’t ever be seen as one to put on weight – in fact he struggles to do so in order to bring him up to the same poundage as opponents – he does have a bit of a taste for chocolate and pizza, especially in the company of his young children.

“Yeah, there can be a lot of chocolate, pizza... when I’m out with the kids I’m trying to order something healthy, getting fish, and vegetables, but then the pizza and chips come out for the kids, I’m picking away at that. It’s not good.

“But we’re monitored now with dexa scans, it shows how much fat you’ve put on, how much lean muscle, and I suppose you’re looking at a fella’s lifestyle as well. If he’s not in good condition you have to look at his habits, and the habits he’d bring on to the field probably wouldn’t be so good either.”

“It took me up to last year to find my ideal weight, find what food agrees with me, constantly trying to be 95kg, but my natural weight now is 86-88kg. I think that’s why I kept breaking down, trying to put on weight, I was too heavy and my body wasn’t able to carry it.

“I sat down with the strength and conditioning coaches at Munster. After an operation on my knee, I worked with a restaurant in Limerick called Gasta, it is real healthy stuff, all sweet potato, brown rice, they delivered food out to me for eight weeks and I got into the best condition I ever was.”

The PRO12 and Champions Cup campaigns loom large on his horizon, but Earls already has an eye on Munster’s meeting with the New Zealand Maori at Thomond Park on November 11.

“Hopefully, it’ll be like 2008 and getting to wear a club or school sock is a great touch, maybe a blue (St Munchins) sock and black and amber (Young Munster). Hopefully, there might be the haka again, with Frankie (Saili) and Tyler (Bleyendaal) because there’s a few NZ boys playing.

“One of the highlights of 2008 was that I was sitting in the stand watching it, it was the loudest... I couldn’t hear the boys doing the haka, the crowd were just unreal. It was a lovely touch, a great sporting moment and then the boys coming so close. Hopefully, we can get a win over them.”

Earls has already stored up some bragging rights over his Kiwi colleagues after the Irish Under 20s became the first Irish national men’s side to break the New Zealand rugby hoodoo. “Now that you mention it, we must rub that in Francis’s face. Actually, we get a shot at them twice, once in Chicago. It would be great to be involved in that and great to win to shut a few of the New Zealand boys up.”

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