Six Nations
Earls boost for Ireland
ESPNscrum Staff
February 6, 2012
Ireland's Keith Earls acknowledges the crowd, Ireland v Italy, Rugby World Cup, Otago Stadium, Dunedin, Ireland, October 2, 2011
Keith Earls is set to return to the Ireland set-up for this weekend's clash with Wales © Getty Images
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Centre Keith Earls is poised to return to the Ireland squad for Saturday's Six Nations clash with France in Paris.

The 24-year-old was set to face Wales in Dublin on Sunday before his recently-born daughter was taken ill. He subsequently withdrew from the side and missed their agonising 23-21 defeat but is expected to re-join the squad on Tuesday ahead of their Stade de France showdown.

Coach Declan Kidney is aware that his side's title challenge will effectively be over should they slump to another defeat and knows there is plenty of work to do in the wake of their disappointing showing at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. "We've buckets to work on and six days to do it. I know we are a lot better than that," Kidney said. "We put ourselves under a lot of pressure defensively. We had to defend for 60%-plus of the game, and if you do that, you are going to ask for trouble.

"You have to give credit to Wales. Sometimes it is not just all down to you, but there are some aspects that we can be disappointed with individually. We have to be smart enough to do the work that needs to be done, but wise enough to understand that it is a six-day turnaround."

The odds are stacked against Ireland avoiding a second successive tournament defeat, especially given a startling statistic that shows just one victory over Les Bleus in France since 1972. One Irish newspaper and television pundit claimed today that Ireland were lurching "lemming-like towards the abyss," and there can be little doubt that the heat is on Kidney.

"We put ourselves on the back foot, and it is tough to win when the try-count is 3-2 against you," Ireland No.8 Jamie Heaslip said. "Wales were good. They retained the ball very well for long periods, and they got three tries. When we had the ball we put a lot of pressure on them, but they held strong and when they had the ball they were dangerous for long periods."

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