Keith Earls’ greatest Ireland moments

KeithEarls (2)
When Ireland eased to a dominant 29-10 win over England in Dublin to seal the 2023 Grand Slam, the story of the day undoubtedly belonged to Keith Earls.

When Ireland eased to a dominant 29-10 win over England in Dublin to seal the 2023 Grand Slam, the story of the day undoubtedly belonged to Keith Earls.

The Ireland utility back became just the ninth Irish player to reach 100 caps when coming off the bench, joining legends such as Brian O’Driscoll and fellow Munster heroes Paul O’Connell and Conor Murray in reaching such an accolade.

It turned out to be the dream day for Earls, who came on as a second-half replacement and found his way over for his 36th Test try as Dublin erupted in appreciation.

Having made his Ireland debut 15 years ago against Canada in November 2008, it has been a long time coming and over the years there have been plenty of incredible moments in an Irish jersey.

A World Cup quarter-final defeat against New Zealand has led Earls to call time on his memorable international career – let’s look back at some of his best moments in green…

Early Six Nations success

Earls was selected for his first Six Nations campaign in 2010 and he immediately made an impression.

He came off the bench in the 29-11 win over Italy in Round 1 before starting in the next four matches.

Those starts led to tries, with Earls scoring his first in the Six Nations at Twickenham as Ireland beat England 20-16, before a double in a 27-12 win over Wales.

He finished his first Championship as the joint top try scorer, alongside teammate Tommy Bowe and Wales’ James Hook and Shane Williams, with three.

2011 World Cup

Earls was selected for his first Rugby World Cup in 2011, as part of the 30-man squad that travelled to New Zealand.

He started against the USA in Ireland’s opening game of the tournament, before featuring in the historic triumph over Australia, their first ever win over the Wallabies at a World Cup.

He scored two tries from outside centre against Russia and another two on his birthday against Italy as Ireland went through to the quarter-finals unscathed.

Despite a 22-10 quarter-final defeat to Wales in Wellington, Earls crossed the whitewash again, taking his tally to five tries for the tournament, the most by an Irishman and beaten only by Vincent Clerc and Chris Ashton.

2016 win over South Africa

Five years later and Earls was heavily involved in another historical win for Ireland, this time coming in South Africa.

Selected in the first Test, Earls and Ireland managed to hold on to a 26-20 win over the Springboks in Cape Town – their first ever win on South African soil.

They were narrowly beaten 32-26 and 19-13 in the second and third Tests to prevent a series win but it was nonetheless an historic moment for Irish rugby and one that showed they were capable of matching up against any side in the world.

Top scorer in the Six Nations again

The winter after that South African success and Earls was once again at the top of the Championship scoring charts.

Earls started on the right wing in Ireland’s opening game of the Championship against Scotland, scoring their first try of the campaign in defeat before scoring two more tries against Italy in Round 2.

He went on to start in all three remaining matches for Ireland and although he could not score himself, he had already done enough to be one of the eight top try scorers, which also included teammates Craig Gilroy and CJ Stander.

2018 Grand Slam

Having missed the 2009 Grand Slam, Earls was a crucial member of the Ireland side that lifted just a third Grand Slam in 2018.

Earls started every match on the right wing for Ireland, scoring in Round 2 as they defeated Italy 56-10 in Dublin.

Victories over Wales and Scotland followed, before a special day for Ireland and Earls at Twickenham, as they pulled away to a 24-15 win to secure both the Triple Crown and the Grand Slam.

Successes over New Zealand home and away

Just a few months later and Earls completed the southern hemisphere ‘big three’.

More importantly, Ireland’s 16-9 win against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium was their first in Dublin and a first for Earls, after missing the victory two years earlier in Chicago due to suspension.

It completed a truly sensational year for Earls, who won the Players’ Player of the Year award following his sensational performances in 2018, which also included a first-ever series win in Australia.

He was then at it again last summer, as Earls made yet more history against New Zealand, this time away from home.

Earls started and scored in the first Test, which New Zealand won, before missing out on squad selection for Ireland’s first ever Test win on Kiwi soil in the second.

He did however captain the midweek team in their victory over New Zealand Maori, before coming off the bench in the third Test as Ireland held on for a 32-22 triumph and historic series victory.

The Century

After a decade and a half in Ireland colours, Earls finally had the opportunity to reach triple figures last weekend.

Again named amongst the replacements, Earls came on to rapturous applause in the 58th minute, with Ireland already leading 17-3 and a dream day was about to get a whole lot better.

Mack Hansen scored the fourth try for Ireland, before the ball came Earls’ way and the Irish legend sprinted away, acrobatically dotting down in the corner to seal the win.

Earls retires sitting second on the all-time Ireland try-scoring list, behind only O’Driscoll’s 46.