Keith Earls comes in for some harsh criticism after night to forget 10 months ago

Keith Earls comes in for some harsh criticism after night to forget

No issue with the rating, which was fair, but the 17-word summary belittles a quality Irish player.

Keith Earls came in for some rough treatment from England forwards Tom Curry and Maro Itoje, on Saturday, and took some damage.

The Munster winger sustained a hip-pointer injury during Itoje's ill-timed dint and although he tried to run it off, he was clearly in a lot of discomfort. As a result, one of Ireland's best kick-chasers, receivers and harriers was limited for a good chunk of the first half.

"It got quite physical with Keith Earls," Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said after the game. "I don't think it was intentional, but it certainly put Keith out of the game and he was our most-experienced back three player in the game. It was challenging to cover that space in behind and they played to it really well."

Schmidt may have been a bit frustrated that Earls tried to play on rather than hold his hand up for the sake of the team and allow Jordan Larmour to come on. Earls remaining in the fight when he was obviously not able to run off his knock was something the head coach noted after his side's 32-20 loss.

The extent of Earls' injury, and how much it impinged on his game, would not have been known to Stephen Jones when he was compiling his player ratings, but his summary of the Ireland winger was unnecessarily harsh.

Jones, writing for The Sunday Times, gave Earls 5/10 and highlighted his mistake [shooting out of the defensive line] in Jonny May's opening try for England. We did too, in our player ratings, but Jones' blurb on Earl's performance is biting. He writes:

'Dragged off at half-time, at fault for the first English try and a stopgap at this level.'

Earls was replaced at half-time as he was carrying a bad injury. He was at fault for the first try - scored when he was full pelt and fit - but calling a guy who has 73 Test caps and who played big roles in two Six Nations championship wins "stop-gap" is way off the mark.

Earls was voted Ireland Players' Player of the Year for 2017/18, the most successful season in the history of Irish rugby. He was comfortably voted in ahead of a host of Leinster stars that were dominating for province and country.

Anyone that saw him claim that cross-field kick in Paris, chase back to save a certain Italian try in Dublin or execute a perfectly timed tap-tackle to prevent another score in London - all in last year's championship - would tell you this lad is anything but a stop-gap.

Earls has been in the form of his life these last two and a half seasons and, in our opinion, should have made the Lions squad in 2017. Had Warren Gatland selected wisely, it would have been his second tour after featuring on the 2009 trip to South Africa.

Stephen Jones never shies away from sharing his opinions but, in our contrary take, he is off the mark here.