Munster winger Keith Earls says the desire to stay playing international rugby was too hard to turn down when he was tempted away from the province.
The 30-year-old Ireland international was linked with a move to Saracens prior to signing a three-year contract extension with Munster in January 2016.
And with Munster captain Peter O’Mahony and fellow international back row CJ Stander both being linked with moves abroad, Earls says he could never have left.
“Obviously there is the Lions but playing for Ireland for your country is the highest standard, and you want to test yourself every year,” said Earls.
“The Six Nations is a massive tournament, the November internationals are always challenging when you get to play against the southern hemisphere. It’s huge, it’s a lot to give up to head away to France or England or wherever it is.
“And getting to play with the club I grew up loving (that’s why I stayed). Home comforts are great but sometimes fellas like a challenge and some fellas want to see if the grass is greener and that’s always in the back of your mind. It’s the perfect career to try a different lifestyle as well.”
Simon Zebo has already announced his intentions to leave Munster at the end of the season, with France the chosen destination, while it is believed others will follow.
And Earls says this time of the year is tough on players who are out of contract at the end of the season.
“It’s starting to creep in a small bit that players are leaving the Irish provinces a bit more than we would like. It’s always the worst time of the year, you are just trying to sort things out. You just want to play rugby but you want to make sure your family and yourself are being looked after as well.
“It is a tough time but hopefully it will get a bit easier.”
Earls has scored 41 tries in 143 appearances for Munster, and also notched up 62 caps for Ireland but he is out currently in his fourth week on the sideline. The Limerick native tore his hamstring while in Ireland camp prior to the November internationals but is aiming to return for Munster’s crunch PRO14 interprovincial derby against Leinster on December 26.
And although he misses another big game, in this weekend’s Champions Cup tie against Leicester Tigers, Earls says it’s great to see his teammate Ian Keatley playing his best rugby for province and country.
“It is brilliant to see Keats hitting the form that we knew he could hit. He has put it down to the birth of his daughter. He was a fella that used to think too much about rugby and everything was rugby for him. He is nice and relaxed now.
“It was proven last week and in the autumn as well coming on against Fiji and kicking the penalties. He is flying it and is an extremely talented player. I am just delighted for him.”
Earls was in Life Style Sports yesterday reminding supporters that as the exclusive retail partner of Munster Rugby, Life Style Sports will send two fans on a trip of a life time to follow the team to South Africa for a 12-day, three city, two-match rugby bonanza. Deatils about the competition are on @lifestylesportsrugby Instagram or https://bit.ly/ UltimateAwayTrip.
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