Keith Earls is now Ireland’s joint top Rugby World Cup try scorer alongside Brian O’Driscoll (7 tries) – and boasts one of the best strike rates in tournament history – following his brace against Romania at Wembley Stadium.
Keith Earls has certainly caught the eye since ending his two-year absence from the Ireland team last month, recapturing some of his best form with a run of three tries in four starts.
He touched down in each half during Ireland’s 44-10 bonus point victory over the Romanians – his third Rugby World Cup double after braces against Russia and Italy in 2011 – and is now level with former team-mate Brian O’Driscoll on seven RWC tries.
The modest Moyross man was keen to deflect praise after his man-of-the-match performance at Wembley, but it is clear that he thrives on this global stage with a tournament strike-rate of seven tries in as many appearances.
He crossed the whitewash five times in New Zealand four years ago, including a score in the quarter-final defeat to Wales, and has begun England 2015 in equally clinical fashion.
Speaking after yesterday’s game at Wembley, Earls praised the ‘phenomenal’ support provided by the RWC record crowd of 89,267 and was quick to single out two of his team-mates for their handiwork in creating his tries.
“It’s thanks to the lads that are around me. It’s the team, it’s all about the team with us and you see it, some unbelievable skill from Zeebs (Simon Zebo) and Reddser (Eoin Reddan) to put me away, and the same with Tommy (Bowe), the boys inside us made us look good today,” he told TV3.
After an injury-disrupted couple of seasons, the 27-year-old currently looks as sharp as ever and is clearly determined to do everything in his power to hold onto a starting berth with those crunch Pool D clashes with Italy and France looming.
“I’m looking after myself, that’s the main thing. I’m staying healthy, I’m keeping my head down and I just want to play every week,” he explained.
“You could see all the boys were good today. As I said, all I can do is go out there and play to the best of my ability and hopefully give Joe (Schmidt) a headache.”
Earls’ afternoon was ended prematurely by a neck injury. He passed the head injury assessment during the second half yesterday but has ‘some neck stiffness’ this morning according to Ireland team manager Michael Kearney.
With Earls set to complete his return-to-play protocols tomorrow, Kearney confirmed: “It’s a three-step process, so he completed the one coming off the pitch and was allowed to come back on. Then he had the stage two post-game and he’ll go through stage three tomorrow.
“That’s the formula and that’s how it will happen. It was part of the plan that he would come off after 60 minutes, that was the plan.”
The Munster flyer himself admitted: “It was fine. I just took a bang to the neck, that’s all. It actually happened in the first half, running into one of the forwards from the Romania side. Kinda poor technique out of myself, flash-backs to the Welsh game, but all’s good and the head’s fine. I just jarred the neck a bit.”
IRELAND RUGBY WORLD CUP TOP TRY SCORERS:
7 – Keith Earls (2011-2015) (7 tries/7 appearances)
7 – Brian O’Driscoll (1999-2011) (7 tries/17 appearances)
5 – Keith Wood (1995-2003) (5 tries/10 appearances)
4 – Tommy Bowe (2011-2015) (4 tries/5 appearances)
4 – Hugo MacNeill (1987) (4 tries/4 appearances)
4 – Brian Robinson (1991) (4 tries/3 appearances)
3 – Denis Hickie (2003-2007) (3 tries/7 appearances)
3 – Rob Kearney (2011-2015) (3 tries/6 appearances)
3 – Brendan Mullin (1987-1995) (3 tries/11 appearances)
3 – Nick Popplewell (1991-1995) (3 tries/7 appearances)
3 – Alan Quinlan (1999-2003) (3 tries/4 appearances)
RUGBY WORLD CUP ALL-TIME LEADING TRY SCORERS:
15- Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)
13 – Doug Howlett (New Zealand)
12 – Drew Mitchell (Australia)
11 – Vincent Clerc (France)
11 – Bryan Habana (South Africa)
11 – Chris Latham (Australia)
11 – Joe Rokocoko (New Zealand)
11 – Rory Underwood (England)
10 – David Campese (Australia)
10 – Brian Lima (Samoa)
10 – Shane Williams (Wales)
9 – Jacque Fourie (South Africa)
9 – Gavin Hastings (Scotland)
9 – Mils Muliaina (New Zealand)
9 – Jeff Wilson (New Zealand)
8 – Christophe Dominic (France)
7 – Adam Ashley-Cooper (Australia)
7 – Keith Earls (Ireland)
7 – Marc Ellis (New Zealand)
7 – Ieuan Evans (Wales)
7 – Matt Giteau (Australia)
7 – Will Greenwood (England)
7 – John Kirwan (New Zealand)
7 – Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
7 – JP Pietersen (South Africa)
7 – Joe Roff (Australia)
7 – Gareth Thomas (Wales)
7 – Iwan Tukalo (Scotland)