Ireland boss Andy Farrell has revealed he persuaded World Cup-bound wing Keith Earls not to retire.
Munster veteran Earls is preparing for his fourth trip to rugby’s leading tournament after being named in Ireland’s 33-man squad for France ahead of Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale.
The 35-year-old celebrated his 100th cap by coming off the bench to claim his 36th Test try in the 29-10 Dublin win over England earlier this month.
Earls wrote in his 2021 autobiography that he came close to calling it a day with immediate effect the previous year amid breathing difficulties caused by restricted lung capacity.
According to Farrell, Ireland’s second-highest try scorer, behind Brian O’Driscoll, was again considering hanging up his boots last year.
Asked which of his squad members made up the most ground to secure a place on the plane, the head coach name checked the likes of tournament debutants Jack Crowley and Joe McCarthy before mentioning Earls.
“I had a conversation 18 months ago to try to stop him from retiring,” said Farrell.
“He’s certainly come through the other side.
“He’s been outstanding over the last nine weeks as regards giving to the squad his whole self, his experience but at the same time being as fit and excited as I’ve ever seen him.”
Earls went more than a year without international action following Ireland’s 2022 tour success in New Zealand amid injury problems before lining up against Italy at the start of the month.
He withdrew ahead of Saturday evening’s 17-13 warm-up win over Samoa in Bayonne due to a “niggle” but is now preparing for Ireland’s World Cup opener against Romania on September 9.