Complacency is the biggest obstacle facing Ireland this season, Keith Earls has warned.
Joe Schmidt’s men swept all before them last term with a first Grand Slam since 2009 followed by a first series win in Australia for 39 years, culminating in a first-ever win over the All Blacks on home soil.
Ireland have been hotly-tipped to retain their Six Nations title, but Earls knows that history is no barometer for future success.
‘I suppose we can’t fall in love with ourselves and think it’s going to happen again,’ said the Munster wing.
‘To win the Grand Slam last year was massive, we knew how hard it was and what we had to do but I think we’re just going again now.
‘The bug is there to win another one. We’re taking it game by game, whether it’s the Championship or a Grand Slam – this group is quite good at enjoying success and then re-focusing to go again, to try and retain the trophy.’
Last season’s championship triumph was especially pleasing for Earls, who missed out on the 2014 and 2015 Six Nations successes due to injury.
At 31, Earls is eager to make up for lost time and accumulate as many medals as possible.
‘I know it is a short career, but enjoy it when you can and then move on to the next job and enjoy them all when you’ve retired,’ he said.
‘Especially for me, from getting the bug of winning one – I enjoyed it, I want to put it to bed and I want to go after another Championship – whether it’s a Championship or a Grand Slam. Then enjoy them when I retire.’
Earls agrees when it is suggested that this squad exudes the very un-Irish trait of coping with expectation.