Keith Earls’ special milestone this weekend is no more than he deserves

One step closer.

In terms of professional rugby players, they simply don’t come much better than Munster and Ireland winger, Keith Earls.

The Limerick native is one of the most beloved players in the game for a multitude of reasons, and he’s just one game away from entering a very special club, after being named in the Ireland starting team to take on Italy this weekend.

Saturday’s game will mark Earls’ 99th appearance in green, one short of a centurion club that features some of Irish Rugby’s greatest. One more Test match for his country after Saturday and the Moyross man will be just the ninth player to have played 100 Test matches for his country.

And it’s a pretty exclusive club. Earls will join the likes of Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, and Johnny Sexton should he do so. And we’d be very shocked if he didn’t.

Ireland have two warm-up games left after Saturday – England and Samoa, as well as the Rugby World Cup next month, where it’s difficult to see a scenario where Earls doesn’t travel to France.

Earls has been applauded over the years for not just what he brings on the pitch as an excellent winger both in attack and defence – but what he brings on the training paddock, particularly when it comes to the younger generation.

There have been countless stories of Earls going the extra mile to help players in training and pass on his experience and expertise. The consummate professional, who adds value wherever needed.

Ronan O’Gara put it best when he said:

“I think everything good about Munster Rugby and Irish Rugby is reflected in Keith Earls,” O’Gara said.

“He has unbelievable values, he’s an absolutely great guy. Full of doubts, full of insecurities, yet managed to excel on the world stage and represent the people of Moyross. It means to much to him to wear a red jersey, to wear a green jersey.

“I’ve goose pimples talking about him.”

99, not out. Here’s hoping Earls will get that 100th in the coming weeks. But first, we can’t wait to see him back starting against Italy this weekend. No better man for the job.

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