Earls targets 13

2009 Lion Keith Earl is determined to make the number 13 jersey his own at both club and country. [more]

Earls targets 13

2009 Lion Keith Earl is determined to make the number 13 jersey his own at both club and country.

The versatile back faces fierce competition to play in his favoured position, with Brian O’Driscoll Ireland’s first choice and Munster having signed Casey Laulala and James Downey.

But Earls, who made five appearances for the Lions in South Africa, still reckons it is his best position to shine.

"I spoke to Rob (Penney, Munster’s new head coach) and let him know the position I prefer and he sees me as a 13 as well," Earl told the Irish Examiner.

"Obviously, though, I’m not going to play every game for Munster just as Casey and James aren’t either. Danny Barnes, Ivan Dinneen and a couple of other lads are there and I’m sure it will be mix and match again like last year.

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“But he knows 13 is my favourite position even if at times we might have to adjust.

"You can’t be that selfish when it comes to a team and Rob said he’d do his best without promising anything. To be honest, I absolutely hate playing 11. Every bad game I’ve played, it’s been at 11.

“Maybe it’s a confidence thing because I haven’t grown up playing there. I feel I need to be closer to the ball whereas on the wing you might finish off a couple of tries, you might get a run-in, but you don’t touch the ball as often as you want or to make as many tackles.

"There was a time when I was happy to have a jersey. I was learning the game. I’ve learned a lot from people like Rua Tipoki who was one of our best foreign signings. He was so intelligent and came up with his own ideas."

Earls was blighted by injuries throughout last season but is feeling fresh and is relishing the responsibility of being one of Munster’s most experienced backs.

"I was running the back line yesterday and I was two or three years older than some of the lads," added Earls.

"It’s a bit scary and puts a lot of pressure on me because I’m still learning the game but I like that role.

"We know Rob and Simon (Mannix) from their records as coaches but don’t know them yet as people but they’re both positive men who like to keep it simple and let fellas express themselves.

“They’re killing us with the fitness right now but we’ve also run through two or three moves, they’ve been asking us to produce some ourselves and we’ll come up with a play book then.

Earls was one of the victims of Ireland’s 60-0 thrashing in the final Test against New Zealand last month and he admits he is still haunted by the defeat.

"Before the last Test, we were going solid for 54 weeks,’’ added Earls.

"The first Test was okay for a while, the second was quite good but the last was disgraceful and one you’d almost like to forget. In fact, this is my first time talking about it because it’s been really embarrassing."

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