Munster’s Keith Earls has won the praise of Ireland coach Declan Kidney for the way he stepped into record try-scorer Brian O’Driscoll’s boots in the absence of the Leinsterman.
Earls stepped in when Ireland’s all-time highest try scorer was ruled out of this year’s Six Nations after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Since missing the narrow opening round defeat to Wales at the Aviva Stadium for personal reasons, Earls chipped in with a try in the rout of Italy and impressed in the draw with France and the win against Scotland.
Munster were stunned by Aironi on Sunday and the return of Earls for a trip to Connacht on March 24 could prove a timely boost at the business-end of the of the RaboDirect PRO12 season.
But first Earls will line up for Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday in a clash which will likely determine who finishes second this year, and his coach has been effusive in his praise of the Munster man.
“I thought Keith [Earls] has been going very well,” said Kidney.
“Brian’s injury is unfortunate but I think Keith has had a chance and what has been nice is he has come in to do his own job and do it as well as he can.
“He hasn’t been living under anyone’s shadow. When you consider Brian has been in that jersey for so long that’s great credit to him for being just his own man.
“You don't lose players of the calibre of Brian and Paul O’Connell and just rock up. After the match, I wasn't so much congratulating them about the result which was great but the way they conducted themselves right throughout the week.
“There was a lot thrown at them. They just went about their business and we went out to give as good a game as we could and thankfully we got our result.”