IRELAND’S Rugby World Cup exit brought with it the retirement of Keith Earls, one of the most decorated players in the sport.
The decision of the 36-year-old, who started the opening pool game against Romania for his 101st cap but hasn’t featured in the match-day 23 since, was confirmed by coach Andy Farrell.
Earls made his international debut against Canada in 2008 at Thomond Park, where he scored a try just a couple of minutes into the contest with his first touch of the ball.
Another 35 tries would follow and the Young Munster flyer started every game during Ireland’s 2018 grand slam campaign, with injury robbing him of involvement in this year’s side that also managed the clean sweep in the Six Nations.
“He’s a legend and one of my best mates, not just in rugby but in life,” said captain Johnny Sexton, who also announced his retirement.
“I spend a lot of time with his family away from rugby and he’s a top-class human being, a legend of a bloke. You couldn’t meet a more popular lad in the squad.
“He’s part of our team off the pitch. On the pitch, he’s a legend as well. He’s had some massive days, the 100th cap. I’m gutted for him that he picked up an injury at a bad time so he couldn’t be involved in the last couple of weeks, but he’ll go down as one of the very best for sure. This group will miss him definitely.”