MUNSTER head coach, Anthony Foley says the province’s rugby fans are seeing a mature, grown-up Keith Earls who is itching to get back playing with Ireland.
Twenty seven-year-old Earls has scored seven tries in 10 starts for Munster since returning from a long-term knee injury in January.
Earls’ excellent form is a big boost for Munster ahead of Saturday’s Guinness PRO12 semi-final showdown with Ospreys at Thomond Park, 2.30pm. Earls’ form has also boosted the chances of the former St Munchin’s College star making Joe Schmidt’s Ireland World Cup squad.
Anthony Foley said: “He’s (Keith Earls’) grown up. When he was a young guy coming through - obviously he came through St Munchin’s - he was a big star and everyone had him tagged as one that was going to make it. And everybody who had that was right.
“He’s a guy who we want to get the ball in his hands. We want to see him with the ball in his hands. He does threaten people.
“People don’t want to see him with the ball in his hands if you’re in the opposition. It doesn’t bother him whether he’s full-back, wing or 13. He’s a good player and he can play in any of those positions.
“He’s a guy we’ve a lot of confidence in and from that confidence he’s grown as well and has matured into a very good player.
“A lot of the things around Keith is managing his body as well and I think he’s doing that very well this year. I think he’s starting to understand his body, which is always a bit strange, but as young players they tend to think they can do everything but by the time they get to 26 or 27 they start understanding what they need to do and how they need to prepare, and he’s well all over that at the moment.
“He’s a player that’s itching to get back into international rugby and hopefully get into a World Cup squad.”
Foley explained that Munster’s fit-again New Zealand out-half Tyler Bleyendaal is unlikely to be sent out on loan to a Southern Hemisphere side during the summer months in order to get gametime ahead of the start of the new 2015-2016 European season.
Foley said: “It’s just unfortunate the way the season has fallen in terms of game time (for Tyler Bleyendaal).
“We got him a game against the Ulster Ravens in Naas and we haven’t been able to get him a game since then, but he’s on the fringes.
“He’s training really hard but it’s about getting games at the moment and he’s ready to go if anybody picks up an injury.”
“There’s always stuff being talked about (getting gametime in Southern Hemisphere during the summer), but what you often find with other teams in the southern hemisphere, they’re more interested in bringing through their own players and making sure that they can generate their next generation of players.
“What might be good for Tyler is after the four week break at the end of the season, we get him back a couple of weeks early in pre-season.
“I know pre-season is down for nine/ten weeks, but it’s pretty short. We’ve got more or less six weeks of preparation and then we’ve got pre-season games against Grenoble, Connacht and London Irish, and then we’re into the season. What would be nice for him is that he’s fully fresh and good to go for Grenoble and see where his season goes from there.”