Keith Earls has today confirmed his retirement from rugby with immediate effect, bringing the curtain down on a stellar and inspirational career with Munster and Ireland.
The 36-year-old calls time on his 16-year professional career following Ireland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign, during which he won his 101st Test cap in green.
The Limerick native finishes with 36 Test tries to his name, leaving him second only behind Brian O’Driscoll on Ireland’s all-time top try scorers list, while he scored 64 tries in 202 appearances for Munster.
In an indelible Irish Rugby moment, Earls won his 100th cap against England at the Aviva Stadium in August, leading the team out alongside his three daughters, Ella-May, Laurie and Emie, before marking the occasion with a memorable try.
He made his Ireland debut 15 years previously, against Canada in November 2008 at Thomond Park, where he scored just two minutes into his international career.
Earls would go on to become a legend of Irish Rugby, starting all of their matches during the 2018 Grand Slam-winning campaign and he most recently featured at his fourth Rugby World Cup having been involved in the 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2023 editions.
Commenting on his retirement, he said: “The game of rugby has given me so much and I feel privileged to have represented my home province Munster, and Ireland, over the course of my career.
“I have always tried to be a good friend and team-mate and give all of myself to the jersey, traits inherited from my parents, Ger and Sandra, and sister Jenny. While retirement is never an easy decision, now is the right time and I feel incredibly fortunate to go out on my own terms representing Ireland on the highest stage.
“To all the coaches, teachers and volunteers who encouraged and guided me in Thomond, Garryowen and Young Munster and at school in St. Munchin’s College, I am indebted to you for your friendship and support over the years.
“Playing for Munster has given me some of the greatest days of my life. The victories, the heartaches, the camaraderie and the friendships with so many players, coaches and support staff over the years has positively impacted my life more than you will ever know.
“Being a Munster supporter growing up, before I even got the chance to pull on the jersey, meant that I appreciated every moment to represent my province across my 202 appearances.
“I was so honoured to be a part of our URC success last season and I have no doubt that it will be a launchpad for the squad to soar even higher in the years to come.
When I was young I never imagined I would get to represent my country once, never mind 101 times. Playing for Ireland meant the world to me and it has been an honour to pull on the jersey and represent our great nation.
“To all the Ireland coaches, players, support staff and supporters who have backed me throughout my career – thank you from the bottom of my heart.
“Finally, to my wife Edel, children Ella-May, Laurie and Emie – thank you for your unconditional love and support over the years. I couldn’t have made this journey without you.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell commented: “Keith Earls is a true legend of Irish Rugby and it has been an enormous privilege to work with him over the last seven years. A gifted and committed outside back, his influence transcends his on-field achievements, of which there were many, both for Munster and Ireland.
“Keith was also a leader and an incredibly positive force and he will be missed. On behalf of the Ireland team and management, I would like to thank him for his contribution to the game and wish him, his wife Edel and their family the very best of luck with the next exciting chapter in their lives.”
IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora said: “Keith will rightfully go down as a true great of Irish Rugby, and he has made a lasting impression which will endure.
“He possessed great speed, skill and bravery and testament to his durability is that he retained such a high level of performance right until the very end, scoring a try on his 100th appearance for Ireland against England in August.
“I have no doubt that Keith will continue to shine in the future, and I would like to thank him for his professionalism and dedication to Irish Rugby over the last 16 years.”
Munster head coach Graham Rowntree added: “‘Earlsie’ is an icon of Munster and Irish Rugby. It’s hard to imagine Munster Rugby without Keith Earls and he has given so much to this province. He is an incredibly popular member of the squad and the ultimate Munster man, always putting the team first.
“With more than 200 Munster appearances, over 100 Ireland caps, touring with the Lions…he’s seen and done it all. Supporters absolutely love him for being the man that he is and he deserves all of the praise that comes his way.
“We will miss him but I am delighted that he is retiring on his own terms. Scoring that brilliant try for Ireland on his 100th cap was a great way to mark a special occasion, and I’m so pleased that his last game for Munster ended with him lifting the URC trophy, no one deserved it more.”