Keith Earls, Munster and Ireland’s versatile winger and centre, has signed a 3 year extension with the IRFU which will see him stay with Munster until the end of the 2019. Earls’ signing comes with a healthy dose of relief for the Munster faithful as there had been strong rumours of a move to English Premiership side Saracens in recent weeks.
Since the Rugby World Cup in late 2015, the provinces have been having something of a turbulent time, with the exception of Connacht. Long term injuries to the likes of Tommy Bowe, Peter O’Mahony, Cian Healy and Ian Henderson, have seen the traditional big three in Ireland all fail to progress passed the pool stage of the Champions Cup for the first time since 1998. Now with increased revenue going to the English and French leagues following their re-negotiations with the re-christened Champions Cup, the draw for Irish talent to these leagues has never been stronger as more lucrative contracts can be tabled.
The announcement of the new contract for Earls will be seen as a huge boost for the province as they look to rebuild a squad that can once again challenge for silverware. Following the departure of Paul O’Connell for Toulon in December, keeping world class talents such as Earls is key for the rebuilding process. Earls’ signing comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Conor Murray is also to stay at Munster until the end of 2019.
Earls made his senior debut for province in April 2007 against the Ospreys and has scored nearly 200 points to date. He is also nearing his half century in Irish caps. A highlight from the 2015 Rugby World Cup saw him overtake Brian O’Driscoll as Ireland’s leading try scorer (8) at World Cups. His speed and strength have seen Earls terrorize oppositions on the wings and equally at outside centre following the retirement of O’Driscoll.
At 28, this contract extension will ensure that Munster and Ireland will have at least three more seasons of Keith Earls at the peak of his powers. With any luck there will another extension then too.
Credit: Image source – independent.ie