What next for Keith Earls?

It was this time last week four years ago that Keith Earls was named in the Lions squad.  He was the archetypal bolter, barely established at international level – he’d been capped against Canada in the previous Autumn series – but showing red-hot form in the lead in to the Lions announcement, culminating in a brilliant performance in the famous thrashing of the Ospreys at Thomond Park that signified the peak of the great Munster team of the noughties.

As it transpired, the tour didn’t go all that brilliantly for Keet, but he overcame a difficult start (he dropped his very first bomb in his very first game and looked harrowed by the experience) to get lots of gametime and it was put down as a learning experience that would stand to him, and surely he’d be back in four years time.  Except that is not how it’s turned out at all.  A flash Munster winger with a nose for the tryline was considered unlucky to miss out on the squad, but that was Simon Zebo.  In the shake-up, Earls was nowhere, barely mentioned in the parlour-game that is the multiple selection of theoretical squads by every writer, blogger or pundit.

He was largely absent from Munster’s recent resurgence, playing a minimal role in their two best performances of the season.  He was injured for the Harlequins match, and played in the unfamiliar 14 shirt against Clermont and left the field early in the second half.  His replacement, Denis Hurley scored the try that put Munster back into the match. This season he also lost his starting shirt for the first games of the Six Nations, though he quickly got into the team on the back of injury to his clubmate Zebo.

It doesn’t quite count as a fall from grace; Earls is still highly thought of in Munster, and no doubt Joe Schmidt will continue to see him as a valued squad member for Ireland.  But it does seem like Keith Earls has found himself somewhat squeezed out of the foreground.  Part of the issue is the positional to-ing and fro-ing that Earls has endured throughout his career.  Last summer, he made a pretty big deal of telling the media he ‘hated’ playing on the wing, and was adamant that he wanted to play centre exclusively for Munster.  In spite of having Casey Laulala in his squad, Penney granted Earls his wish and picked him at centre for much of the season.  But it’s been curious to watch Munster deliver their best when Casey Laulala played 13 (and crucially, when, for almost the first time, Laulala’s teammates appeared to be getting on his wavelength).

The Earls-for-13 movement hasn’t been quite as terrible as some have made out, and he’s had his moments at centre.  He certainly has the running skills to play there, and at times it’s important to focus on what he can do rather than what he can’t.  A couple of months into the season, Earls was in terrific form and looked comfortable in the role.  Witness the try in Ravenhill, where Earls touched the ball three times, one around-the-corner pass, another pass fast, flat and in front of the player running on to it, and the third a try-scoring support line.

But since then things have stalled, and the issue of Earls’ lack of distribution skills just won’t go away.  The other problem is that he cannot simply go back onto the left wing again; there’s a new sheriff in town over there.  It leaves him looking at another year trying to get to grips with the full range of skills required to play centre, or possibly redefining himself as a right wing, taking up the gap about to be vacated by Dougie Howlett.  Ultimately Rob Penney will have the final say.  As the season wore on, we got the feeling he sees his ideal 13 as more of a distributor than Earls can ever really be.  When Munster offered Luke Fitzgerald a contract and the promise of the 13 shirt, what did it say about Rob Penney’s faith in Earls’ continuing suitability for the role?

It can be unfortunate for players when a single event so dominates the public consciousness, but for Earls the moment where he failed to pass to Brian O’Driscoll having made a clean line break against Scotland in the Six Nations this season has almost come to define his lack of awareness of others around him.

It looks like next season could involve yet another positional change for Earlsy.  You could argue that we Irish are unnecessarily daunted by versatility and being a jack-of-many-trades, but for a player who has admitted to issues with self-confidence and has talked in the media about his determination to play in a specific position, it has the look of a backward step.

Advertisements

102 Comments

  1. abitofshoepie

     /  May 7, 2013

    Connaught?

    • Rava

       /  May 7, 2013

      Connacht

      • abitofshoepie

         /  May 7, 2013

        My bad..

        • Laighin Pit Operative

           /  May 7, 2013

          Both spellings acceptable, actually.

          • When talking about the geographical entity, yes, but not when talking about the provincial branch/rugby team.

          • Abitofshoepie

             /  May 7, 2013

            Sorry Salmon, well pointed out. I’m terrible for typo errors when on my generic touch screen device.

          • Laighin Pit Operative

             /  May 7, 2013

            Correcting somebody for using a correct spelling for an Irish province in English is silly on many levels… just because they picked one spelling for the marketing and ligo and TM etc. doesn’t mean you can tut if someone uses the alternative. You’d do equally well to sniff as ‘it’s actually Connacht Rugby, I think you’ll find’, or moan a few years back that soomeone left the Lions out of Leinster or now puts the Llanelli in the Scarlets. Marketing drones change their tack from year to year… doesn’t mean you necessarily need to take their usage as Gospel.

            There are two spellings in use in English for the western province. Either is fine.

          • Laighin Pit Operative

             /  May 7, 2013

            *logo… damn phone

  2. Rava

     /  May 7, 2013

    I have always thought Earls was over-hyped most of the time and his overall skill set wasn’t up to international standard. Yes, he has great pace but when he needed to add brain to his game in this seasons six nations he was greatly exposed.
    After witnessing Conway’s performance at the weekend and Joe’s subsequent comments, perhaps Earls will have to content himself by being Munster’s back three/13 cover for most of the season.
    He just might see his future elsewhere come the end of his current contract.
    I do believe he will struggle to get into the Ireland squad next season.

    • An imaginative little daydream you’ve had there. Earls will be in the Munster team next season, probably at 13. He will also be in the Ireland squad. The incumbent Leinster centres have 5 line-breaks to their names in the last year and a half of international rugby. 3 of those were by D’Arcy against Italy in 2012. O’Driscoll’s stats from the last 6N are 23 runs at 1m per run. If nothing else, Earls offers something different off the bench in that he can actually gain metres in international rugby.

      • SteveO

         /  May 7, 2013

        …and then immediately get turned over.

      • Rava

         /  May 10, 2013

        Its a pity they don’t do stats on the number of meters O’Driscoll ran at Earls’ shoulder expecting a pass that should have been made but wasn’t. That would be quite high I’d say.

  3. Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

     /  May 7, 2013

    Hate to nitpick But Earls and Zebo are not club-mates. They do however both play for the same province.
    I acknowledge that club is often used instead of province but it shouldn’t be. Its use only further undermines the value we place on our third tier of rugby in Ireland and saying club instead of province drives the wedge further between club rugby and the money making professional game.

    • Good man Hogan, tell it like it is.

      On the subject of Earls. It seems that fullback would be his best role.

      That bomb alone, it places the same demands as 13, with less emphasis on his poor passing skills, more forgiving for his shocking positioning within a defensive line, while allowing him more space to be a devastating runner.

      But given the personal at Munster he’d struggle to get into the side anywhere, as Zebo, Jones and Conway would have to be ahead of him.

      He shouldn’t be involved in Ireland for awhile, and it’s criminal that someone like Andrew Trimble is behind him in the pecking order

    • You’re quite right Chogan, we do try to avoid any reference to the provinces as clubs, this one slipped past the editing commitee. They’re best described as franchises, really.

      • Abitofshoepie

         /  May 7, 2013

        Not liking the term ‘franchises’ either….makes them sound like recently opened branches of an American fast food chain…cheapens the history and ignores the roots that our provincial setup has, which is the main strength of it and possibly one of the main reasons that the provinces have been able to do so well in the pro era……also, ‘the four proud franchises of Ireland’ doesn’t have the same ring to it

  4. Len

     /  May 7, 2013

    I think Earls desire to play in a position which is not his best is in danger of destroying his career, much like Luke Fitzgerald’s insistence he wanted to play full back. The difference now is Fitzgerald seems to have come to terms with his short coming and is just happy to play where he’s put. I think the media storm last year may have been the beginning of the end for Earls.

    • Chris

       /  May 7, 2013

      Agree Len, it’s all very well having a backroom chat with your coach about where you would like to play but it’s a career wrecker coming out publicly and then not locking down your “chosen” jersey at club or country.

      Big believer that coaches are the coaches for a reason, they can see each players skills, from a usually unbiased perspective, and then select each player in the position best suited to those skills. Earls needs to take a leaf out of Fitzy’s book, stay quiet next year and just get his head down and train hard.

  5. Dave

     /  May 7, 2013

    Interesting stuff guys. Earls is a class act. He has the raw skills to be an outstanding winger. Pace, a step and a nose for the whitewash. Lots of people see him as a fullback though he isn’t amazing in the air. His only International cap of meaning at 15 was against a woeful English effort in the Palindrome. However his early breakthrough for Munster saw a confident youngster playing at 15 that scored that try in Musgrave Park with a nifty chip up into his arms at full tilt. Through much of his school days Earls was the star and pretty much the go to guy in the Munchin’s team which perhaps explains some of his tunnel vision distribution. Earls has been the only Munster outside back involved with the International setup over the last number of years. Neither Munster or Ireland have been blessed with a really good backs coach (Sorry Gaffer and Dutchy) Perhaps exposure to some better coaching might help his awareness and distribution. Enter Joe Schmidt. As far as confidence is concerned it would be great for Earls if BOD just called it a day. Until he does and even afterwards whoever plays 13 will always be compared to BOD.

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  May 7, 2013

      Whoever plays 13 will always be compared to Brian O’Driscoll. That’s just how it’s going to be. As BOD is still the best man for the job I’d hate to see him quit just for the sake of Keith Earls’ confidence.

      • Dave

         /  May 7, 2013

        I meant hypothetically, obviously, I thought. Anyway the main point I was trying to make is that whoever plays 13 will be compared to Brian O’Driscoll and that in a way is unfair. If Conrad Smith were to replace O’Driscoll (hypothetically) he would not compare on some levels.

        • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

           /  May 7, 2013

          And Smith would surpass him on others. I want Jarred Payne playing 13 and be in the man who “replaces” BOD. Payne hasn’t been drenched with the O’Driscoll tale like others who have grown up here would have.

          When is Payne IQ?

          • Dave

             /  May 7, 2013

            Spot on!

          • O'Riordan

             /  May 7, 2013

            Payne is IQ summer 2014

          • Rava

             /  May 7, 2013

            Just read that Payne has signed a new three year contract at Ulster so looks like he is happy to throw his lot in with Ireland.
            Happy Days.

      • BOD is surviving on reputation at the moment. After giving Earls the pass to make a line break against England, his significant contributions to the 6N campaign were:

        1. Shouting at Keith Earls for not passing against Scotland.
        2. Playing on while concussed against France.
        3. Stamping on Simone Favaro.

        Presumably the above come under the headings of leadership, example and experience.

        • Kenny

           /  May 7, 2013

          no sublime try setup for zebo against Wales, being begged to stay for one more year….reputation alone yeah pull the other one Henry. You may need those rose timted glasses wiped a bit.

          • If BOD wasn’t up to it I’m sure Deccie would have been happy to knife him before ROG, and that Schmidt wouldn’t be down on his knees looking for him to stay.

            While (2) and (3) are excellent arguments for the necessity of keeping a star player’s ego in check, you kind of ruined things with (1).

            If everybody who shouted at Keith Earls for not passing (or passing forward, or directly into touch, or at their toes, or at the side of their head, or… you get the idea) was hauled up before you for sentencing, sir, I fear every current Munster player, most Irish players, many coaches and the entire rugby supporting populace of the country, would be incarcerated in overflowing jail barques off our coasts.

          • I am sorry that BOD is so ineffectual these days that a 5 metre pass in the tram-lines has been taken as the second coming of Jesus. As I said above, his running stats were 23 runs for 23m, and he played a full part in Ireland’s worst 6N ever, leading the backline to an abysmal return of 4 tries from 5 matches. At present he isn’t making himself or others look good. Great player and everything, but he’s going on this Lions tour on reputation only.

          • Are you absolutely sure you’re not confusing the current captain’s stats with the previous one? 😉

          • Kenny

             /  May 8, 2013

            Isn’t that the same 5 meter pass that your “second coming” Keith couldn’t make. I find your strawman arguments pathetic.

            The reality is Keith has disappeared into nothing again schuud around the backline to plug holes from injuries while Brian is so ineffective as you say that province and country ate begging him for 1 more year.

          • A straw man is a misrepresentation or simplification of an opponent’s argument, which is then skewered as if it were the opponent’s argument. Its etymology is interesting. It either comes from the ancient practice of shooting arrows at straw men, or from the 19th – 20th century use of straw dummies for bayonetting. In both cases, an immobile, defenceless representation of the opponent is contrived.

            I have used facts to back up my argument. 1m a run, 1 try assist, and a 1m try. 1 line-break in 8 matches. If you think that’s good enough for an international outside centre, you are of course entitled to your opinion. Sadly, for me, BOD’s performances this year continue the decline evident in the tour of NZ last year.

        • Kenny

           /  May 8, 2013

          Moving a thread based on the clear slide in Keith Earls provincial and international aspirations, to your view of the effectiveness of BOD during a miss coached period in Irish international rugby with a view to who knows why, is most definitely straw man arguing.

          Can you give me a factual answer as to why the seemingly ineffective BOD is still seen as a much better 13 than Keith by both Kidney and now Schmidt??

          Can you actually comment on the subject of this thread ie Keith Earls terrible slide since the lions tour in SA 4 years ago??

          Any views on his weakness with passing especially off his left shoulder??

          That’s kinda what this thread is about Henry in case you hadn’t noticed.

          • I didn’t move the thread. This is a sub-argument, which was not introduced by me. I have engaged with it.

            I can’t make factual statements about the contents of Kidney’s or Schmdt’s minds. I can only speculate.

            Schmidt has not yet chosen O’Driscoll ahead of Earls. I’m not going to speculate on the reasons for things that haven’t happened.

            Kidney chose O’Driscoll because he has a history of success with O’Driscoll, at a guess, and because O’Driscoll played well in the Wales match. O’Driscoll is also Ireland’s best-ever outside-centre, so he’s got plenty of credit banked for slumps in form.

            Terrible slide is hyperbolic, and incorrect. Earls is a better player than he was in 2009. Better passer, better defender and more tactically mature. He could do with a run of games without injury. This article is unnecessarily maudlin and pessimistic, in my opinion.

            This supposed left-hand weakness is overstated. Brian O’Driscoll passes badly off his left too, frequently putting the pass behind the player. This is caused by a structural weakness in his shoulder, I believe. Earls’s issues are more technical and are only visible on long passes. Long passes which O’Driscoll simply doesn’t throw anymore.

            I note that none of your claims have factual or statistical support. Maybe you would like to produce some stats on Keith Earls’ bad passing or his terrible career slide. Though I’ll understand if you’d prefer to just keep spoofing.

          • Kenny

             /  May 8, 2013

            BOD is a better center at the moment than Keith is. Why has BOD been left on when so concust in the last game, because hes that good. Why have the new Ireland coach begged BOD to stay for 1 more year and the previous coach leaned heavily on BOD when Earls was there to pick. Because hes a better centre. Why is BOD going on tour with the Lions if he has been so ineffective as you say

            “Terrible slide is hyperbolic, and incorrect. Earls is a better player than he was in 2009. Better passer, better defender and more tactically mature.”

            Why can he barely get a place in the Irish squad so and why hasnt he usurped the “ineffective” BOD at 13.

            You mentioned the 0-60 in NZ as BOD was the “leader” of the backline of the worst ever match by Ireland. Can you explain Keith’s attempted tackle on Hosea Gear in the build up to one of the 10 or so tries in that game, seeing as hes a better tackler now according to you. The team as a whole played badly in that game.

            I suppose the truth or “spoof” as you call it hurts though. Keith isnt a lion this year because his form when he is injury free has not been up to scratch. He made a decision at the strat of the season to let all and sundry know that he is a 13 and is attempt at that position as been underwhelming to say the least. He can even oust the “ineffective” BOD. Now he cant get a wing place because Gilroy and Zebo and to a lesser degree Trimble are better and more consistent options.

            And my last “stat” or lack of is that Keiths name was missing from this years Lions team sheet strangely seeing as hes the “second coming”

          • Kenny

             /  May 8, 2013

            Id just like to add that his Munster place is also shakey at best so in both green and red nothing is a definite for him even though he is “a better player” than 2009 Keith Earls. Maybe he is a better player than 2009 but it would seem not to be good enough for either Munster or Ireland.

          • Earls’ Munster place is in jeopardy only in the minds of magical thinkers like you and Rava, Kenny. He was first-choice when fit this year. The same will be true next year.

            Your rhetorical questions are inane. BOD played on while concussed because Sean Cronin can’t play at centre (though he’d probably do better than 1m per carry). BOD is going on the Lions tour on reputation. You haven’t made a counter-argument, just produced a load of teleology. Was BOD’s form good during the 6N? Does he deserve to go on form? If so, what form?

            When fit, Earls has been in every first-choice Irish squad for the last 3 years. Don’t be too downhearted if that continues, Kenny.

            We’d all rather forget about Hamilton, but as you’ve brought it up. BOD was the leader of the team, not just the backline. A 0-60 for Captain Fantastic. No clearer illustration that BOD’s reputation is coated in Teflon. Earls made 1 error that day in taking a forearm smash to the temple. BOD made 6. Guess which one you’re going on about?

            Earls is ahead of Trimble, if 6N squads are to be taken as proof. On balance, Gilroy and Zebo are better wingers than Earls. Bowe too, obviously. Why bring that up? Do you believe that you are contradicting me?

          • Kenny

             /  May 8, 2013

            “Earls made 1 error that day in taking a forearm smash to the temple.”

            Do you want to take those red specs off there Henry, the “forearm smash” was actually Keith attempting a tackle and being welcomed to the Hamilton turf very very easily. You should stop being so creative with your vocabulary. Instead of forearm smash use attempted tackle.

            “Your rhetorical questions are inane. BOD played on while concussed because Sean Cronin can’t play at centre”

            so basically we had no backline players left so why have you faulted him on it.
            This is what you posted before

            “BOD is surviving on reputation at the moment. After giving Earls the pass to make a line break against England, his significant contributions to the 6N campaign were:

            2. Playing on while concussed against France.”

            so you have faulted him on playing on while concussed when we had no other back players left and then tell me im producing a load of teleology. Wow your making less and less sense yourself on that thinking.

            “BOD is going on the Lions tour on reputation.”

            I assume you’d put POC and Lydiate in that boat as well seeing as both have played very little rugby this season to have earned the Lions jersey and must be going “on reputation”.

            “When fit, Earls has been in every first-choice Irish squad for the last 3 years. Don’t be too downhearted if that continues, Kenny.”

            Why would i be downhearted Henry, the guy is a quality player in the right position. You should stop being so sensitive about it.

            “On balance, Gilroy and Zebo are better wingers than Earls. Bowe too, obviously. Why bring that up? Do you believe that you are contradicting me?”

            No your contradicting yourself. You have said it here.

            Gilroy, Zebo and Bowe and possibly Trimble (who is older but in much better form than Keith at the moment) are better wingers than Keith. BOD is a better center so, on that thinking where does that leave Keith next year??

            Why don’t you answer that question instead of resorting to name calling and hidden jabs.

          • The forearm smash on Earls is on Youtube if you want to confirm the accuracy of my description. You can see Jonny Wilkinson getting one this last weekend too if that’s your kind of entertainment.

            My argument is that BOD is not a better centre than Keith Earls, on the grounds that in Keith Earls’ 4 games in the 6N last season gained 197m, at 8m per run, made 7 line-breaks, and beat 12 defenders. While BOD produced 23m this season at 1m per run, 1 line break and 2 beaten defenders, and that in 5 games. The counter-arguments appear to be based on BOD’s experience and leadership, which he has not demonstrated to any great effect recently, and his passing being better, i.e. that even if he is not scoring tries and making breaks he is creating them. 4 tries in 5 matches suggests the latter is a fiction. Earls’ 4 matches last year produced 9 back-line tries. How important and effective are O’Driscoll’s leadership, experience and greater passing ability? Seemingly not very important. Seemingly not very effective.

            Obviously POC and Lydiate are going on the Lions tour on reputation. A complete red herring. I would say that BOD is not only being selected on reputation. He is being selected in hopeful ignorance of his recent international form.

            If Schmidt is as incapable of separating man from myth as Kidney has been, then I imagine Keith will be on the bench, covering positions 11, 13, 14 and 15.

          • krustie92

             /  May 8, 2013

            Like the saying goes, “Lies….”
            Keith Earls when playing for Ireland has largely come in at the end of games when they’re generally looser and more free-running. And offensives stats are only one half of the coin. No one could argue Earls does more in defence than BOD. No point Earls scoring 5 tries in a season if he’s leaked six.

          • Kenny

             /  May 8, 2013

            Of course the tackle is on youtube, its hilarious in its failure. Keith went to high and got manshamed.
            The ref and TJ were right beside it and your the only person ive heard call it a “forearm smash” . Watching the attempted tackle and reading your take on it makes me quite ashamed actually. He made a ridiculously weak attempt at a tackle and got smashed.

            In Wilkinson’s case he was tackling the Agen no.8 Opeti Fonua who is 150kg. Keith was tackling Hosea Gear who is in or around his own weight. Please stop making comparisons between Keith’s attempt and, what has to be said, absolute bravery by Wilkinson to attempt to tackle such a monster.

            “Obviously POC and Lydiate are going on the Lions tour on reputation. A complete red herring. I would say that BOD is not only being selected on reputation. He is being selected in hopeful ignorance of his recent international form.”

            Ah once POC is brought into it, the “reputation” chestnut you keep banging on about is now a red herring. Double standards Henry, double standards. Here ill give you a hand there while you move your goal posts to suit your straw man arguments.

            “If Schmidt is as incapable of separating man from myth as Kidney has been, then I imagine Keith will be on the bench, covering positions 11, 13, 14 and 15.”

            Ah right Henry is now setting himself up to harp the “this coach hates Munster players” line when he doesn’t pick Keith in his favoured or whats left position on the starting 15.

            I find some of your statements quite delusional actually. Your mentioning stats from over a year ago to backup ridiculous claims for the present and now. Where is the reality Henry?

            And if your stats are from espn scrum, stop there all over the place. Espn scrum stats are hopelessly inaccurate. But of course you know that already eh!

          • It’s not the 150kg, it’s the forearm to the face that knocks Wilko out. Fat doesn’t hurt anybody.

            Why would you be ashamed of accuracy? Earls made an attempt to tackle, went too high and got a forearm smash to the temple for his trouble. I imagine your reasoning doesn’t extend much beyond primacy, recency and infamy, so it’s a given that you’d harp on a single incident at the expense of long-period statistics. I was hoping for a better rejoinder than a pound-shop variation of ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’, but not with any great expectation. It’s feeble-minded, and deluded, to dismiss statistics which show 8 times more metres, 7 times more line-breaks and 6 times more defenders beaten. Even if they’re slightly wrong, they’re still massively in Earls’ favour. The same opposition, same time of year, and the same direct opponents as Earls in all but one case.

            As your trump-argument seems to be that Brian O’Driscoll was selected by the same people who’ve brought you Matt Stevens the Lion, I don’t think you’ve got much of a case. Arguments from authority don’t come much weaker than that one. I’d tell you to stop wasting pixels, but no doubt a last word merchant like yourself will want to have the last word. I look forward to laughing at whatever risible nonsense you come back with.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  May 8, 2013

            Dat der technique http://static.stuff.co.nz/1340796698/403/7162403.jpg

            I sincerely hope those demented ramblings are drug induced, bringing Drico into the conversation whilst desperately defending Earls shoddy play and positional ineptitude is laughable. I know you’re on a bread roll but I’ll reply anyway, three time HC winner, three time Lions tourist, record international try scorer, and one of the best centers of all time, is second best in your mind to Earls?
            Earls is a middling paced, injury prone frail utility back with poor vision, passing and tackling skills, Drico when fit opens up the game for other players and is defensively solid and even at the tail end of his career is still regarded as one of the best 13’s in the world. Earls in comparison is second choice in every position at his club side, and isnt rated by onyone outside of the gibbering, red clad turnip junkies that pray to Conor George at night, says it all really.

          • Kenny

             /  May 8, 2013

            So again are you intimating that Keith was in some way assaulted by Hosea Gear using phrases like “forearm smash to the temple”? It’s called a fend off and works really well when someone tackles you too high off and off balance, basically bad tackling technique. I’m finished talking about the tackle because you seem to think it’s something that it clearly isn’t.

            What I’m more interested in is that you seem to think its absolutely fine for POC to ghis lions tour after playing about 3 matches all season and clearly being picked on rep and on the same hand dismissing BODs lions callup as on reputation

          • Kenny

             /  May 8, 2013

            Oh and can you actually remain civil for this debate, All day all ive read is the following type of sly and as sneery comments from you

            “I imagine your reasoning doesn’t extend much beyond primacy, recency and infamy”

            Can you take that down a notch and not compare me to some sort of caveman. Try and debate civilly without lowering yourself. It doesn’t show you in agood light at all.

          • Kenny, you suggested that I was delusional and I suggested you were irrational. That sounds like robust debate. Crying foul now is a bit like shutting the stable door after your moral high-horse has bolted.

            POC is a red herring. I said he’s going on reputation. Players should not be picked if they’re in bad form just because of their reputation. The End.

          • Kenny

             /  May 9, 2013

            No Henry I said your posts are delusional, I have mentioned nothing about you so can you comment on what I post instead of just insulting me.

            And once again explain more clearly how POC is a”red herring” for this tour while BOD going under the same terms as on rep is not right. You seem to think its fine for POC but not for BOD. Can you please explain beyond this red herring fob off without resorting to snid personal insults.

            And I’m not crying foul just asking you to post as you would act normally ie your age.

    • Schmidt prizes distribution above all in his backs, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing much of him in an Ireland jersey from now on. Assuming Schmidt tries to make Ireland play more like Leinster, some of the Munster backs will benefit – Murray and Zebo are younger, better versions of Boss and Fitzgerald, for instance – but as Rava suggests above, it’s his Munster place Earls needs to look out for now.

  6. Leinsterlion

     /  May 7, 2013

    In many ways he is Munsters version of Fergus McFadden, the only difference is Ferg doesn’t play in red so he didn’t accumulate nearly half a century of caps with no discernible end product to justify them.
    I, for one, wouldn’t be so harsh on Earls if he didnt garner such a massive number of caps without displaying anything like the talent you’d expect of a forty cap veteran. The blatant bias in his initial and continued selection also rankled, his selection had an air of “on the job learning” that has never dissipated.
    Earls can clamour to be selected in the center, but the Munster brass obviously dont see him there(unlike the previous Irish regime). Its up to him to learn to hit, pass and bring players into his game. I think if he genuinely wants to play as a center there are probably clubs in France and England who would be willing to take a punt on him, he will not get in the team ahead of Lualala or Zebo for the foreseeable future. A change of scenery could do him good.
    Schmidt and the IRFU should look to utilise London Irish or some other EP clubs as a loan/farm system for players who think Connacht is beneath them. Imagine how far along as centers Earls and Ferg would be now with two years of consistent gametime at 12 and 13 respectively. Both are in their mid twenties and should be really looking to cement their place at this stage. The constant chopping and moving of players hinders their career. How are you supposed to develop as a center playing on the wing? Having our two heirs apparent to the Drico/Darce axis playing out of position constantly is not good for them or Irish rugby.

    • Connachtexile

       /  May 7, 2013

      Agreed. Earls has never impressed me in any position except the left wing. I’m not saying he’s no good there but Ireland has better options than him in all those positions. I think part of the problem was Penney and Kidney who indulged him. With Kidney gone there will be no more Munster bias but Penney needs to start putting his foot down and stop letting players like O’Gara and Earls dictate where they play.

      As for the 13 slot Payne didn’t impress me when I saw him at 13 for Ulster this season. He’s the in form full back in Ireland and should be left there to put pressure on Rob Kearney. I’d like to see Cave, Luke Marshall, Fitzgerald or Henshaw given time at 13 to see if one could be the new outside centre after BOD.

      • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

         /  May 7, 2013

        Get the tapes of Payne playing 13 for The Blues

        • Leinsterlion

           /  May 7, 2013

          Agree, Payne tore it up at 13 for the Blues, if he didnt leave for whatever reason he’d have a WC medal in his back pocket.

      • Is Henshaw – who you want to see at 13 – not the form fullback in Ireland this season? I would have thought you would certainly claim that Connachtexile.

        We have plenty of options at fullback – apart from Henshaw, Zebo really looks like he has the skillset to play there…as did Earls. Given we have a gaping hole at 13 and Payne has some good experience there, surely he is worth a look once IQ?

    • Earls has played one match on the wing for Munster this season, and none last. It’d be fair to say Penney sees him as a centre. I doubt the same could be said of Schmidt and McFadden.

  7. I see Gerry Thornley predicted the entire lions squad correctly bar one – luck?

    • Fetcher

       /  May 7, 2013

      Did the same last time, the one he left out being Quinlan which no one saw coming.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  May 8, 2013

      He is actually a good journo underneath his Kidney puff pieces,his journalistic instincts and integrity just got pushed to the side once he was appointed minister for propaganda. That said, I shall continue my boycott until he begins to produce genuine analysis on Irish players and their faults and merits.

    • He seemed to indicate on Wednesday night rugby that reading the Sundays was what got him the high percentage… which one did he miss – Dylan Hartley, was it?

  8. Always thought Earls should have focused on fullback, where he had some cracking performances at the outset even if he never worked to fully develop all the skills. Too late for that now. He basically has allowed himself to be surpassed by Zebo…and he is not a 13. Will be interesting to watch indeed…all the more so with Munster’s growing plethora of Leinster-born backs.

  9. Laighin Pit Operative

     /  May 7, 2013

    You lads were far too kind to Earls- and while I admit there might have been a wee bit of semi-trolling from some quarters at times, the trolling folk had a point. As I suggested to you at the time, it seemed to me that as a Leinster and an Ulsterman you were going out of your ways to give the lad a fair shake, perhaps even over compensating to dissuade the inevitable accusations of provincial bias that would have arrived from the chippier of our southern brethren. Would you have been so forgiving of a young player in white or blue that insisted that he were a centre, and heir to O’Driscoll’s jersey, while having shockingly poor vision, extremely fragile temperament and an inability to pass off his left hand? I doubt it very much.

    And while it’s well-meaning on your part, it’s also futile. The chippier southerners are already so laced with complexes that they consider you biased regardless… sure, after you got a tweet attributed to you recently, incorrectly, I happened upon the munsterfans.com site, where you were getting dog’s abuse for being partisan… all misspelled, of course. But why waste time trying to assuage the tiny minds of dim people who are determined to feel put upon. Any intelligent Munster supporter who has read your page will know exactly what you lads are about… and sod the rest. This piece of brutal honesty is long-overdue. Well done, lads.

  10. Guys, you’ve hit all the right notes with this one.

    I thought Keith would move into 13 and do it pretty well. I was at Ravenhill for the match (and try) mentioned above; KE was not long off the bench and his involvement in that passage of play looked as good live as it did on replay.

    But, the mistakes keep coming. The precise moment I lost faith in Earls as a centre was when he didn’t pass to BOD against Scotland. The irony, of course, is that he was playing on the wing – but it showed a shortcoming in a footballing skill that is more of a problem in midfield than on the flanks.

    Also, when it comes to the national team, I think the debate over the 13 jersey actually has a much more straightforward (and maybe undesirable, depending on your thoughts on the three-year rule) solution than may be immediately obvious. In 12 month’s time, just in time for BOD’s retirement, Jared Payne will be Irish qualified.

    • I should read the comments before posting.

      Get the tapes of Payne playing 13 for the Blues, indeed!

      The first full season of Super Rugby I was ever able to give a decent go was JP’s last in Auckland. He was the best outside centre in the competition, I considered throwing a party when I heard he’d signed for Ulster.

      Gavel down – that’s lot number 13, green, sold to the Kiwi!

  11. pete (buachaill on eirne)

     /  May 7, 2013

    I have always thought Earls flatters to deceive. He is simply outstanding against weaker teams, that have less organised defences or who’s linespeed isn’t so aggressive. He cuts teams like this apart. Unfortunately a lot of people judge him on these performances.

    He is a pretty poor international player IMO. He has some excellent physical attributes for instance his speed, acceleration, agility and the distance in his kicking is good.

    It is the mental side of the game that he lacks massively. His positioning in the defensive line is pretty poor. If his channel gets overloaded with runners (Decoy and Target) he has the tendency to bite too early. He is a bad passer for a winger and a shocking passer for a centre. The tunnel vision syndrome is by far the worst of his attributes though, he is awful at making others look good (Something Joe remarked on being important at Leinster this week). He fails to see support runners unless he is given a lot of time to look for them, he fails to see overlaps.

    Personally I can’t see Joe letting a guy in to the Irish team with such poor skills and Joe won’t be able to improve his skills for him that has to happen at Munster. I think he will probably get game time there if Howlett retires. In which case we could see him on the right wing. If Howlett doesn’t retire then 15 is his best shot as Jones has been pretty sub-par for the last number of months.

    McFadden has looked good at 12 everytime he’s put on that jersey unfortunately it hasn’t been often enough.

    Marshall has looked excellent at 12 I think but could he play 13 I’m not sure.

    Henshaw has looked great at 15 but has he played 13 at all this season?

    Fitzgerald could be our knight in shining armour, he has the skills and the physical attributes but when was the last time he played 13? Start of 11/12 season with O’Malley at 12???

    Payne? I’ve never seen him at 13 so I am going to hunt down these fabelled tapes!

    • ORiordan

       /  May 8, 2013

      Payne may have played 13 for the Blues but barring injury, I really don’t see him lining up anywhere but 13 for Ulster next season. I see Ulster’s 13s being Darren Cave as the incumbent with Chris Farrell and Michael Allen as the understudies.

      • ORiordan

         /  May 8, 2013

        oops… previous post should have said “I really don’t see [Payne] lining up anywhere but 15 for Ulster next season”.

  12. Manga's League

     /  May 7, 2013

    This will undoubtedly come across like a beligerent Munster fan clutching at straws, but I’d like to think that’s not the case.
    Earls definitely has short-comings, and I’m sure you could make an equally impressive blooper reel as you could highlight reel throughout his career, but the one thing he has above (nearly) any other player in the country is natural ability. As a nation we don’t produce sportsmen of Earl’s ability very often. His kind of pace (admittedly decreased over the years) and step have rarely been seen in an Irish rugby player and he most definitely deserved his shots at the Irish jersey over the years. As a utility back he is only comparable to a few of the Irish back division (Trimble/Fitzgerald/McFadden) and his try-scoring ratio far out-strips all of them. I genuinely think the level of criticism he got for the ‘Drico non-pass ‘ was way over the top. That would have been a difficult pass for even Drico (rugby god) to have pulled off himself…Earls backed himself and it didn’t come off! There was no other player on the pitch (bar Stuart Hogg) who could have even dreamed of getting into that position in the first place.
    Earls is an excellent player to have on the bench for Ireland and next season if himself and Madigan (the reason I included the ‘nearly’ above) are sitting on our bench you have the entire back-line covered with 2 payers who would make any international defence question their structure.
    I have to say though your article pretty much hits the nail on the head and Earls does have a lot to prove over the next few seasons, hopefully he will pull it off.

    • Agree with most of that. It’s funny that you say ‘bar Stuart Hogg’ because the very thing Earls tried to do was beat Hoggy on the outside, of which he had no chance. But, yes, I think Earls is too good to find himself sidelined or outside the Ireland squad, and much as we get flak for it, we wouldn’t give up on the Earls-at-13 movement. When people criticise the non-pass to BOD, it’s important to balance it up against the brilliant footwork and gas he showed to make the line-break in the first place. It’s been a curious few months for Earls, because early in the seaon he looked to be flying. I wsa sitting close to the pitch in the Leinster v Munster match in the Aviva and I was actually quite taken with the quality of Earls’ passing, but he went off the boil afterwards.

      • pete (buachaill on eirne)

         /  May 9, 2013

        I’m not lambasting you but why should Earls at 13 movement be given another shot?

        I think the idea that is brewing is that Henshaw or Payne could end up taking BOD’s Irish jersey. Possibly Fitzgerald but Leinster will need him on a wing as they have ZERO back3 cover this season coming.

        • Not necessarily saying he should be picked there for Ireland, but that he is likely to continue to play there next season for Munster.

          • pete (buachaill on eirne)

             /  May 9, 2013

            I would disagree with that in a way.

            I think with howlett going there is going to be a spot on the right wing (most likely for Hurley/Conway) but I also think Jones has come under serious pressure.

            He was excellent just before the RWC and came back from that injury well but since his most recent one he has been seriously one dimmensional. I like Felix, went to school with him, played with a fair bit but is he better than Lualala?

            I think it would make more sense to keep LLL in at 13 (you mention in the OP that Munster play best when he is there now that they are on his wavelength in particular) and I’d move one of Earls or Zebo to 15.

            Personally I think Earls really needs to upskill himself. His natural, born attributes are excellent but he has to expand upon this and show that he has vision and the skill level to execute these visions.

  13. Bob

     /  May 7, 2013

    From my vantage point, KE is jack of all trades, master of none. But his relative ability to cover a lot of backline positions might keep him a place in an Irish match-day 22, competing with the likes of McFadden & Fitzgerald. If he really fancies himself as a centre, he could do worse than escape the Irish spotlight and spend a season playing SXV. No doubt a few sniggers about it not helping his defence, but if he still can’t pass properly after a season of SXV, then all hope is lost…

    • I think that’s an odd summation of Earls. I’d have thought he’s most definitely a master of certain trades (finishing).

  14. Fetcher

     /  May 7, 2013

    Earls and Halfpenney were the two youngest Lions on the last tour, comparing their subsequent career paths would be pretty instructive.
    Halfpenney has had time to settle into a position where even as recently as last autumn he was described by some as a wing playing at full back whereas Earls has played basically every position in the backline but none for an extended period, some of that being down to injury.
    If Earls had spent the last four years playing at full back instead of being asked to fill in wherever there was a gap he’d have improved as a player. As it is he falls between too many stools.
    How many world class, or even international class, utility players are there? Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale are the only I can think of, possibly Richard Kahui. Utility players offer some value to the squad but for a player to flourish he needs to be position specific.
    Earls needs to play a full season, without injury, in one position to fulfill what is still promise. I would like to see him play at full back as he picks good angles and is good in broken play. Some time there to build his confidence and I doubt he’d have much problem under the high ball.

    • Keith

       /  May 7, 2013

      Don’t forget Isa in your fantastic utility back players

      • Matt Giteau, too. Disproportionate number of Aussies in the “great utility player” stakes.

        • krustie92

           /  May 8, 2013

          Warwick was a pretty decent utility back for Munster in his time here.

  15. Seiko

     /  May 7, 2013

    Worth mentioning that Earls had 9 starts + 1 for Munster this year due to injury. Fergus McFadden has exactly double that number of games.

    For all his reputed poor distribution skills, Simon Zebo seems to have prospered well outside Earls for Munster with 12 tries last season when Earls had a fairly injury free season. Strangely enough Zebo only scored 6 tries this season (though only one hatrick against Racing Metro when Earls was playing 13)!

    I’d say Brian O’Driscoll’s screaming at Earls for not passing was more a frustration with himself than with Earls for not having the legs anymore that Earls would expect him to be there. When is the last time that Brian O’Driscoll has scored a try from more than about 5 or 6 metres out?

    How about some analysis of centre play here. Marshall makes a great break, no sign of Brian O’Driscoll anywhere, Earls continues the move until Brian arrives who fails to pass to Earls for a straight run in for a try.

    It would be nice to get some analsys of that centre play.

    Start at about 12.20 (about 6.40 match time clock).

    • ABROG

       /  May 7, 2013

      I agree with the assertion that BOD was too slow to keep up with Earls. Earls looked left and right and BOD was about 5m directly behind him.

      As an aside I was looking at the highlights Aus v’s Lions 1st test match and boy oh boy did he have it then. Hogg looks like the only player on the tour who can cut a team up like old BOD and he’d be an interesting shout for 13.

    • With regard to that play, which is nothing to do with the blog but I will take the bait anyway, is the pass to Earls not cut out by Maitland? BOD either has to go himself or get around Maitland to give the pass.

      Anyway, it is a futile red herring. This post is not a comparison between 34 year old BOD and Earls, it is simply speculating on what next for Earls. BOD is still delivering the goods for Leinster and I think all Leinster fans want another year out of him. Not sure all Munster fans are so united on the prospect of Keith Earls at 13. For Ireland, he is a great option for the 23 shirt. As others have pointed out, it is between him, Fitzgerald, McFadden and Trimble…personally; I would have Earls right now.

      • Nah, if you look at exactly 6:54 on the clock, you can see where O’Driscoll tucks the ball under one arm, on which cue Maitland steps in. Before that, the pass could have been made. If he had released it quickly, Earls would probably have been able to get low and slide in the corner, because he had a little space in which to work, and for all his faults, there’s no disputing that he’s an outstanding finisher from close in.

        • Both of them outstanding finishers from close in – albeit in different ways. If Zebo hadn’t come along, and Earls hadn’t gone out of his way to make clear how much he hates playing on the wing, he would still be many people’s first choice on the left wing.

        • Although, your comment is wrong on the play in the clip. At 6.54 on the clock he doesn’t tuck the ball under one arm at all: he is holding in both paws and sells a dummy the next second (when he sees Maitland standing there).

          • He has it in both hands, indeed, but he then pushes across it to his left hand after the dummy and looks to brush past the contact with his inside shoulder. When he hits the deck he only has one hand holding the ball.

            Regardless of the forensics, he had time to move the ball out, the dummy was a bad decision, and Earls was in far more space than him. He obviously should have passed.

      • Seiko

         /  May 8, 2013

        I think it has a lot to do with the blog in that a lot of people have crucified Earls for not making a far more difficult pass/offload. It also illustrates perfectly why neither Luke Marshall or Keith Earls would expect to find Brian O’Driscoll on their shoulder that far out ready for a pass or an offload.

        On Brian’s failure to pass in the above video, he is in a situation where he usually expects to score by going low and hard (i.e., he backs himself and it didn’t come off). It was still a poor decision though for a distributing centre to make.

        ‘WOC: When Munster offered Luke Fitzgerald a contract and the promise of the 13 shirt, what did it say about Rob Penney’s faith in Earls’ continuing suitability for the role?!’

        I can’t ever recall seeing Luke Fitz play at 13, so I’m not sure why Munster would offer him the 13 jersey (or why he would even want it). By the fact that Andrew Conway has moved, its far more likely that Munster were looking for Doug Howlett’s replacement, not Earls or Laulala’s. Have Leinster promised him the 13 jersey to keep him? We’ll know soon enough, though I think McFadden was preferred there.

        So what next for Earls: Well, when fit (or even nearly fit), he has been the starting 13 for Munster when all are fit, Laulala was benched. Putting Earls out on the right wing against Clermont says a lot of how highly Penney thinks of him as he was coming back from an injury and I can’t ever recall him playing there before.

        Laulala’s contract is up at the end of next season (and will be 33). I don’t see too many top outside centres becoming available, so I’d imagine that is where Keith will be this next season, so he has a reasonable secure future to look forward to in the centre.

  16. Did some one criticize BOD? oh o big mistake……….

    People seem to have decided that Earls isn’t aware of what is going on around him b/c of a botched try against Scotland much like people decided BOD should be Lions captain based on a pass to Simon Zebo versus Wales.

    It is completely unfair to say Earls lacks spacial awareness when he has shown it on many times in the past he does. He may not be the best link man ever but give the guy a break.

    For me he seems to get a lot criticism simply b/c he was closely linked to DK reign as Ireland manager.

    Earls had an average six nations, he made a couple of decent breaks bt didn’t quite finish them off which isn’t his fault entirely but at least he tried to make things happen Kearney, Darcy etc didn’t make any breaks or look like scoring try for Ireland……..

  17. Sound Steve

     /  May 9, 2013

    One of the main issues I have with Keith Earls as a centre (and I’m surprised it hasn’t come up here) is the lack of bulk/upper body strength. The guy has fantastic feet and real acceleration and his commitment in defence is never in question but I always felt that he comes off second best in collisions much too often. Imagine the scenario whereby BOD retires next year and Madigan is considered as a 12 with Ireland – I would hate to line up with a Madigan-Earls 12-13 axis!

    • Sound Steve

       /  May 9, 2013

      Maybe I’ve been a bit harsh – The more I think about it the more I realise Earls is unfortunate. Had he attended a Leinster based school with a strong rugby ethos he would have had the training and the facilities to develop his upper body strength and would be a much more rounded player for it (and I’m speaking from experience, I attended one of the country’s top rugby schools and except for injury I’d probably be playing international now).

    • pete (buachaill on eirne)

       /  May 9, 2013

      What sort of partnership WOULD suit Earls though?

      Marshall-Earls? I don’t like the sound of that not enough distribution.
      Olding-Earls? Very light weight.
      Darcy-Earls? Defensively that fell apart a few times but it was very new. Darce will retire eventually though. That could have a nice balance to it.
      Madigan-Earls? Both similar strengths but no bulk what so ever in that duo.
      McSharry-Earls? That could work.

      I just don’t see Earls being a fit, he has too many holes in his skill set.

      • Sound Steve

         /  May 9, 2013

        It’s a fair point. Like yourself, the only one I think has a nice balance to it is McSharry-Earls. I do think Marshall has better distribution than you’re giving him credit for though. I think the Earls-Downey axis is promising but I would never want that replicated internationally.

        Massively controversial point but I think D’Arcy was the worst thing to happen to BOD’s career from an attacking perspective. The most potent BOD has looked in the last 6-8 years internationally was alongside Roberts for the Lions. D’Arcy is a fine player in his own right but they don’t work as a combination from an attacking perspective in my opinion.

        • Seiko

           /  May 9, 2013

          I can’t see Madigan at 12 internationally as he will be starting regularly at 10 for Leinster. More likely to see Sexton there with Madigan at 10.

          Another option at 12 would be Luke Fitzgerald (that if he hopefully gets fit for a period longer than a couple of weeks) as he has played there a few times for Leinster & Ireland and he is going to find it hard to get a look-in on the wing.

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 10, 2013

            I mentioned this before in a separate discussion but playing the proven game manager at 12 and the maverick playmaker at 10 doesn’t work. Schmidt recognised this in his selection against Biarritz.

            I’d love to see Fitzgerald in the centres too but I always thought as a 13 rather than 12. I’d have seen McFadden as the long term heir to the 12 shirt in Leinster.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  May 9, 2013

          The worst thing to happen to Drico was playing with slow ball specialists at 9 in the likes of TOL, Murray and O’Gara, match that up by playing without an openside and you have one of the key reasons for Irish non performances over the years. Darce was quality up until his arm break.

        • pete (buachaill on eirne)

           /  May 9, 2013

          Why would we consider Earls at 13 if there are no partners that would suit him or rather he is unsuited to many of the other players due to certain lacking of skills

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 10, 2013

            Not suggesting that at all. Just theorising on who you could play alongside Earls. I’d love to see Darren Cave get a decent run at 13 when BOD goes… I don’t see Earls as an international standard 13 with his distribution and physique at the moment. Longer term, and if he doesn’t retire soon, I’d love to Eoin O’Malley deliver on his potential

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 10, 2013

            I am sure, however, that O’Malley will deliver on this potential as he has been raised and educated to a high level. Unfortunately for Irish rugby, for all Earls’ natural talents he was doomed to fail from the start due to unfortunate geographical disposure.

        • Kenny

           /  May 10, 2013

          “Massively controversial point but I think D’Arcy was the worst thing to happen to BOD’s career from an attacking perspective.”

          Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, the most capped test centre partnership in history. Between them they share four IRB International Player of the Year nominations, four Six Nations Player of the Tournament awards and three IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year awards.

          And thats just with Ireland and not Leinster.

          That statement of yours Steve is just plain wrong.

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 10, 2013

            Kenny you are missing the point. They are both fantastic individuals, but Dorce went to school in Kildare and so knows nothing of inter-linking play. He should have stayed out on the wing where his career bagan…like Kearney and McFadden-great players but no intellectual or distributive play required!

          • Kenny

             /  May 10, 2013

            “I am sure, however, that O’Malley will deliver on this potential as he has been raised and educated to a high level. Unfortunately for Irish rugby, for all Earls’ natural talents he was doomed to fail from the start due to unfortunate geographical disposure.”

            Whats how he was raised and educated got to do with anything??

            re Earls and “the geographical disposure”, are you saying that because hes from the southwest he hasn’t a hope??

          • Kenny

             /  May 10, 2013

            “Dorce went to school in Kildare and so knows nothing of inter-linking play. He should have stayed out on the wing where his career bagan…like Kearney and McFadden-great players but no intellectual or distributive play required!”

            You do know dorce won 6 nations player of the year playing at 13 for Ireland.

            Either way im not feeding you anymore. Good day.

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 13, 2013

            Sorry Kenny, one of my mates has been trolling on this using my name. Ignore all comments related to schooling etc. My point was that BOD and GD, while both fine players, are too similar in shape and style and I believe this has inhibited BOD’s attacking play. I’m not having a go at GD, I remember that Six Nations and the win in Twickers in particular and GD was spectacular. I think the fact that they are the most capped partnership in history ever has more to do with the paucity of quality inside centres in the country over the last 10 years. The fact that Paddy Wallace has been GD’s only real threat for that jersey until this season says a lot.

  18. Laighin Pit Operative

     /  May 10, 2013

    It’s beyond me how you can judge Nick Williams a league grinder and nothing more… that he couldn’t hack it up a level… yet still refuse to write off Earls.

    Let’s be frank… Earls will never make it at international level because he lacks the ability and the temperament. It’s not one missed pass to O’Driscoll in one match… actually he failed to put him away twice in that game for the record…. it’s endless examples of poor skills and the wrong attitude… he moaned at O’Driscoll as he failed in Edinburgh at his chosen position just like he moaned at Sexton when he ballsed up at FB. It’s his egotism, his lack of vision and his pisspoor distribution…

    But he’s bunched now. No more ill-deserved caps now the Munster selection bias is over. He’s slso bunched as a 23 as he can’t play in any of the positions in the positions he’s been jack if all trading it at… least if all his choice. He’s got some pace and a mediocre step… so even as a wing he’s okish… how he went on a Lions tour 4 years ago when Gilroy and Zebo missed out while showing infinitely more footballing ability this year will be a mystery for archaeological debate in several eons. His best days are behind him… if he becomes a world beater and the best centre we’ve seen since BO’D in the next year or two… I will happily eat humble pie… but all signs point to dudsville.

  19. Seiko

     /  May 13, 2013

    Interesting developments on outside centre – the Chiefs tried to sign Casey Laulala as temporary cover for Richard Kahui but were refused permission by the NZRU because it was after the cut-off date. The interesting bit is that Penney was prepared to let Casey go back – not something you’d imagine he would allow to ahead if you were planning on using him a lot as your starting centre next season.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10883375

%d bloggers like this: