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Friday 17 November 2017

Electric Earls eager to follow the rules

Keith Earls. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Keith Earls. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Keith Earls likes to play ball.

There is no greater joy in the game for the wing wizard than getting it into his hands and taking off.

In 2011, the International Rugby Board, now World Rugby, commissioned a report to measure how the ball-in-play time had increased from the 1995 World Cup in South Africa to 2011 in New Zealand.

It came up with the conclusion that ball in play per-match had jumped by 26 per cent from 1995 in South Africa.

The passes per-match rose from 201 to 282, an increase of almost 40pc. The rucks/mauls per-match had nearly doubled, going up from 94 per-game to 178 per-game, an increase of almost 90pc. The kicks per match had gone down from 59 to 39 per-game. Scrums had gone down from 23 to 13 with lineouts going down from 37 to 26.

This all added up to less stop and more start.

Since then, the evidence from the 2015 World Cup showed how ball-in-play time has stagnated for the last three events, 2007, 2011 and 2015 at 35 minutes, or 44pc, of the 80.

It is this stagnation that has led to a number of rule changes to increase the continuity and time in play, the most recent adopted at the beginning of the season.

And this is all fine by the flying machine Earls.

"It would be great, as an individual, to have the ball in play more," he said.

It looks like the changes have had a positive impact already.

"I think they are saying the ball is in play something like 36-40 minutes, which has moved on.

"Look, with big men, especially with Munster - we're not the biggest pack either - you try and move teams around the park.

Positive

"Then, it is just trying to play positive rugby and more exciting rugby for the fans.

"There is being able to play a good brand of rugby. But, the result is the main thing for us.

"If that's playing expansive, that's playing expansive and if it's putting the ball up the jumper, so be it.

"The way it's going now, the game is getting a lot quicker. You certainly feel it on the lungs."

The pursuit of space is good news for 30- year-old Earls, carrying the form of his international life from June into this November series.

The same goes for Ulsterman Jacob Stockdale, just 21, when it comes to his current form, the term little and large coming to mind should they be twinned on the flanks against South Africa.

"He's a phenomenal talent," aired Earls.

Special

"From the moment I saw him and trained with him, I knew he had something special.

"He's been playing unbelievable for Ulster this year. He's massive. He's fast. He's an incredible finisher and he's so strong too. He'll make mistakes as he gets older and it will start getting difficult when teams start figuring him out and what he's about.

"But, in my eyes right now, he ticks every box."

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