Earls confident Ireland can kick on
February 27, 2012
Winger Tommy Bowe crossed for two tries in Ireland's comprehensive victory over Italy in Dublin © Getty Images
Ireland centre Keith Earls insists his side will enter their re-arranged Six Nations date with France full of confidence following their thumping of Italy on Saturday.
The Irish emerged 42-10 winners at the Aviva Stadium to haul themselves back into title contention following their loss to Wales three weeks ago. Their next assignment is Six Nations favourites and Grand Slam-chasing France after their original clash was postponed because of a frozen pitch.
A solitary victory since 1972 is all the Irish have to show from four decades of campaigning in Paris, but Earls admits their confidence is rising. "We're happy. That was a big scoreline for us against Italy," he said. "After the Welsh game we wanted to go out and prove ourselves.
"There were a lot of bruised bodies at the end because it was so physical, but we're happy. It's a good note on which to be going to the Stade de France next week."
Ireland led just 17-10 at the interval but took full advantage of Italy's second-half collapse to register a much-needed victory. Tommy Bowe crossed twice while Tom Court, Andrew Trimble and Earls also touched down with Jonathan Sexton kicking 17 points.
"Not much was said at half-time. We knew it was going to take 60-odd minutes to break Italy down," said Earls. "We got in some good positions in the field in the first half but their defence was good and there were a couple of mistakes from ourselves.
"We knew we had to be direct in the second half, which we did and the scores came from that. The second half was a lot better and we got our second wind and some good scores. The back line clicked so it was good."
While Earls showed signs against Italy that he is capable of replacing Brian O'Driscoll at outside centre, far greater tests than the Azzurri midfield await. French pair Aurelien Rougerie and Wesley Fofana will provide a stiff examination of his partnership with Gordon D'Arcy on Sunday.
"Gordon and I haven't played with each other that much and he is used to Brian, so it will take a while before we're used to each other," he said. "We're confident together and know each other well. I don't think we did anything bad against Italy and our confidence will only grow from here."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby