KEITH Earls has confirmed his retirement from rugby after a stellar career with both Ireland and Munster.
During a long and distinguished career, the 36-year-old Young Munster stalwart won more than 100 international caps and represented his province on more than 200 occasions.
With Ireland, he scored 36 test tries, while with Munster his try count was 64.
Confirming his decision, Earls said: “The game of rugby has given me so much and I feel privileged to have represented my home province Munster and Ireland over the course of my career.”
“I have always tried to be a good friend and teammate and give all of myself to the jersey, traits inherited from my parents Ger and Sandra and sister Jenny. While retirement is never an easy decision, now is the right time and I feel incredibly fortunate to go out on my own terms representing Ireland on the highest stage.”
He added: “To all the coaches, teachers and volunteers who encouraged and guided me in Thomond, Garryowen, and Young Munster, and at school in St Munchin’s College, I am indebted to you for your friendship and support over the years.”
“Playing for Munster has given me some of the greatest days of my life. The victories, the heartaches, the camaraderie and the friendships with so many players, coaches and support staff over the years has positively impacted my life more than you will ever know.
“When I was young I never imagined I would get to represent my country once, never mind 101 times. Playing for Ireland meant the world to me and it has been an honour to pull on the jersey and represent our great nation.
“To all the Ireland coaches, players, support staff, and supporters who have backed me throughout my career – thank you from the bottom of my heart. Finally, to my wife Edel, children Ella-May, Laurie, and Emie – thank you for your unconditional love and support over the years. I couldn’t have made this journey without you.”
Leading the tributes to the retiring legend was Irish coach Andy Farrel, who said: “Keith is a true legend of Irish rugby and it has been an enormous privilege to work with him over the last seven years. A gifted and committed outside back, Keith’s influence transcends his on-field achievements, of which there were many, both for Munster and Ireland.”
“Keith was also a leader and an incredibly positive force and he will be missed. On behalf of the Ireland team and management, I would like to thank Keith for his contribution to the game and wish him, his wife Edel, and their family the very best of luck with the next exciting chapter in their lives.”
Munster Head Coach Graham Rowntree added: “Earlsie is an icon of Munster and Irish rugby. It’s hard to imagine Munster Rugby without Keith and he has given so much to this province.”
“He is an incredibly popular member of the squad and the ultimate Munster man, always putting the team first. With more than 200 Munster appearances, over 100 Ireland caps, touring with the Lions…he’s seen and done it all.
“Supporters absolutely love him for being the man that he is and he deserves all of the praise that comes his way. We will miss him but I am delighted that he is retiring on his own terms.
“Scoring that brilliant try for Ireland on his 100th cap was a great way to mark a special occasion and I’m so pleased that his last game for Munster ended with him lifting the URC trophy, no-one deserved it more.”