MUNSTER winger Keith Earls says this month’s three Test tour to South Africa is going to be a ‘massive challenge’ for Joe Schmidt’s side.
The Ireland squad departs for South Africa on Sunday with the first test against the Springboks set to take place on Saturday, June 11, at Newlands at 4pm Irish time.
Limerick man Earls said: "It's going to be a massive challenge. It's a real hostile place, they love their rugby down there.
“More than anything it is going to be massively physical, they're all big men and they've a lot of young players coming through which will bring excitement for them.
“It’s not a challenge we will take lightly. We'll relish the challenge.
“Playing for Ireland is massive. Every lad who plays rugby dreams of playing for Ireland and their provinces.
“Getting to play for your country and sing the national anthem is massively proud.”
Earls says that while Munster’s competitive season ended prematurely after the province failed to make the semi-finals of the Pro12, players continued to train hard.
Earls said: “There wasn’t much rest at Munster. We kinda had a mini pre-season which was good.
“We trained hard. The lads who were in contention for the tour had to keep their fitness levels up.
“Not played games those weekends was obviously very disappointing. As a Munster man you want to be in semi-finals and finals.
“Look, it wasn’t to be this year. We will forget about it and concentrate on the tour now.”