Thursday 14 December 2017

O'Connell: New dad Keith born for battle

PAUL O'Connell believes Keith Earls will be inspired by the birth of his first child when Ireland's Six Nations opens against Wales on Sunday.

Earls has been asked to replace Brian O'Driscoll, who will miss the entire tournament after undergoing shoulder surgery, at outside centre for the Dublin showdown.

The 24-year-old must step into some of biggest boots in world rugby only days after his partner Edel McGee gave birth to their baby girl, Ella-Maye.

Rather than be overawed by the demands of filling the void left by O'Driscoll's absence, O'Connell hopes he will feed off the change to his home life.

"I've spoken to Keith and he's in good form," said O'Connell, who is leading the team while O'Driscoll continues his rehabilitation.

"I was lucky in that when we had our small fella I was injured at the time so I didn't have to go through what he's going through.

"It's a great time and he's in great form and is looking forward to joining up with the team.

"Having kids is great because it gives you a bit of perspective on life and rugby. We all take rugby very seriously and are a bit selfish at times, but it gives you perspective on how to treat games. Hopefully it will be a good thing for him.


"He's a lot more experience than in the past, so hopefully I won't have to say a lot to him.

"He had a good World Cup and has been playing well for us. He was excellent against Northampton. Guys have to be trusted ... we have to let him continue doing what he's picked for."

The only Test debutant named in the 22 to face Wales is Munster back row Peter O'Mahony, who features on the bench.

Coach Declan Kidney is sure to be criticised for what will be perceived by some as a conservative selection, but retains faith in his established internationals.

"I respect everybody's view. This team is everybody's team, people talk about who should and who shouldn't be playing," he said.

"We had a disappointing match on our last day out, but one bad game doesn't make you a bad team.

"Wales played very well that day and if we play the same way on the Sunday then it will be the same result."

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