Keith Earls threw his name into the hat for Test selection with a solid game against the Emerging Boks, but he’d be happy if it’s his last involvement of the tour.
The Ireland utility, who is still in his rookie season as a professional, had a nightmare start to the tour with a nervous display against the Royal XV in Rustenburg.
But Earls has made huge strides since then and believes his performance against the Emerging Boks was one of his best of the tour.
‘Obviously it got off to a bad start in the first week, but I’m happy with the way it’s gone since then,’ Earls told keo.co.za. ‘I got two tries in a Lions jersey so I’m a bit happy. It’s my first season, I’m learning a lot and I still have a lot to learn.
‘I was a bit bitter and a bit sad after my first game, but the lads and the experience around me helped me get through it and I enjoyed the last couple of games.’
For most of the players in Tuesday night’s side the game against the Emerging Boks was a last chance to push for places in the Test squad.
The Munster sensation admitted that the conditions at Newlands made it hard for anyone to really stand out, but he was pleased with his overall performance on the night.
‘This morning we saw the conditions and we thought “Jesus how are we going to play fancy rugby in this”, but in fairness to the lads we got stuck in and did the best we could.
‘Obviously we had to play the conditions, but apart from a few high balls in the swirling wind I’m happy enough with my performance.’
Earls has played at both fullback and outside centre throughout the tour, but the 21-year-old was unsure as to whether his versatility could help him earn a spot in the Test side this Saturday in Pretoria.
‘I’m not sure really,’ said Earls. ‘The two fullbacks we have, Rob [Kearney] and Lee [Byrne] are great players and have a lot of experience. Hopefully I put my hand up tonight and gave the coaches something to think about.
‘Obviously I don’t want to be known as a utility back. Hopefully 13 or 15 will be my position. I’ve enjoyed playing at 15 in the past two games and I played there at the start of the season with Munster, but due to injury to Rua Tipoki I had to play at 13 and I enjoy both really.’
Earls admitted 2009 has been beyond his wildest dreams and finds he has to pinch himself just to make sure it’s all real.
‘It’s absolutely crazy. At the start of the season my goal was to get a few starts for Munster, but I started becoming a regular for Munster and I got a cap for Ireland and it was a ridiculous, a dream come true. And now to be on the Lions tour, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.’
By Andrew Worling, at Newlands