Kearney laments Ireland’s rotten luck

Ireland team manager Mick Kearney has insisted a poor run of luck rather than a problem with the IRFU’s player welfare programme is the reason for the national side’s current injury crisis.

Kearney laments Ireland’s rotten luck

With 15 players either injured or suspended over the course of a bruising RBS 6 Nations, the Irish management were forced to defend the scheme which has been criticised by the provinces at Carton House yesterday. Nine players required medical attention following Saturday’s 13-13 draw with a France but as the story of Ireland’s season turned into a tale of missed opportunities and mounting injuries, the management refused to blame the high-profile scheme which limits the number of games players take part in.

“The injury thing is absolutely extraordinary. I was thinking about it yesterday and it reminded me of Charles Haughey and the famous GUBU quote — Grotesque Unbelievable, Bizarre and Unprecedented,” said team manager Mick Kearney.

“It has been a little bit like that for the last few weeks so it has been very unfortunate. I don’t think there is an underlying issue. I think the majority of injuries are soft tissue injuries, which can happen, and I just think it has been unfortunate and unlucky as well. But there is no actual trend to it or nothing in it to look at and say we are doing something wrong.”

Sitting in between Rory Best and assistant coach Les Kiss the trio accepted it had been an unusually attritional season. Kiss accepted it had been the worst injury crisis he had ever seen in a team in his 27-year career.

“Certainly the biggest [injury list] I’ve been involved with, no doubt. There is also just an unwavering belief and commitment from the guys to not lean on that. That’s impressive.

“We certainly do have to play big teams but, again, the challenge... the question isn’t whether it is fair or not, that’s what it is. What I’m trying to say is: we have to build our game around what our strengths are. We have to go into a game and be able to fight in the trenches, and negate what it is sometimes a size disadvantage.

“I just think they deserve a break and I hope they get it this weekend, hope they get the result. To tell you the truth, it could’ve fallen off in a really bad way, we were right on the edges of victories, you couldn’t have asked for more from them. They have been brilliant.”

And none more so than Brian O’Driscoll, who was taken off the pitch requiring eight stitches to a lacerated ear while suffering concussion and a dead leg. However the Leinster talisman has not been ruled out for the final game in Rome against a resurgent Italy following their 18-11 loss to England and, provided he passes the return to play protocols, will don his famed 13 jersey once again.

“Yeah I’ve spoken to him and asked him why he wanted to tackle Debaty twice in a row... I thought he had more smarts than that,” laughed Kiss.

“But he is a warrior, he puts his body on the line week in, week out. We know that. It’s amazing what he does pull from his reserves all the time, so I’ve no doubt he’s going to do everything to be there at the weekend. He’s not talking like he isn’t going to be there, he’s talking like he’s going to be there, that’s for sure.”

He also confirmed Jonathan Sexton is expected to replace Paddy Jackson — “I don’t like to speculate about those selections but a fully fit Sexto’s probably a good bet” — but did not rule out either the Ulster man or Madigan starting as first centre.

“I’ve been very happy with how he’s [Jackson] taken on the last two games and handled a lot that was thrown at him. He’s done exceptionally well.

“Mads, Ian Madigan, made his debut playing at 12 and at 9. But he’s been great at training as well and Jonny’s back this week. Jonny has to prove his fitness yet but I think everything’s on track for him to be right for the game, so someone’s going to miss out.”

Rory Best accepted though, regardless of injuries, decisions made on the pitch had been the mostly costly to their campaign.

“I think you have to treat the situation for what it is. We’re making no excuses for the injuries. We as a player group see ourselves as better than winning just one game.

“We have been very unlucky, very unlucky in a few situations, but there have been other situations that we can control where we haven’t done as well as we should have done.

“We would be hoping to go in and finish third in this championship, while it’s never acceptable for any Irish squad, especially in this modern era, when we look back potentially on the only two games we may end up losing, we had a lot of chances to win those games. Bar maybe a little bit of experience, you change those two results and you have a different campaign. We are seeing a lot of positives in it, but still, at the same time, we expect to win more than one game in a Six Nations.”

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