CJ Stander’s Guinness Six Nations campaign could be at an end after the Ireland back row suffered facial injuries in the 32-20 loss to England.
Head coach Joe Schmidt has a number of injury concerns ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Murrayfield to face Scotland following a rampaging English performance which had left him saying “we got beaten up”.
Stander, who made 20 tackles, was sent for a scan straight after the game, having been replaced in the 64th minute. while Keith Earls suffered a hip pointer injury, and Devin Toner hobbled off with an ankle problem.
“The first thing is I want to see as many of them glued together as possible,” Schmidt said. “We’ve obviously got a concern with CJ. I don’t think Keith Earls will do much, certainly not in the first part of the week. Dev’s (ankle) as well.
“So it is very hard to say, ‘this is what we want to do on Monday and show how physical we can be’.
“With a game as attritional as that one, you’ve really got to allow sufficient recovery time. As much as anything, it is about getting our confidence back, getting mentally re-aligned, so that we can go out and deliver in a lot more positive manner, in a physically confrontational manner next week.”
Though Schmidt did not outline how serious Stander’s injuries were, a tweet from the player’s brother-in-law Ryk Neethling on Saturday night underlined just how bruising an encounter it had been.
“Not the result we wanted but an incredible experience nonetheless and proud of @CJStander playing 62 mins with two fractures in his cheek and eye socket,” Neethling posted.
If it is as serious as that tweet indicates, and with Jack Conan still on the way back from a shoulder problem, Schmidt may reintroduce Sean O’Brien at No 8 against the Scots after the back-rower returned to duty from the bench on Saturday following the broken arm he suffered in November against Argentina.
Schmidt, meanwhile, warned the rest of the Six Nations field that England are on the up following their bonus-point victory, with loosehead prop Mako Vunipola the man of the match after making 31 tackles and leading his side with 12 carries, while his brother Billy Vunipola at No 8 made a storming return to Test rugby after a third broken arm in 12 months.
“There is a danger they will get better. They are playing really well to the limit. It makes it very suffocating and they’ve got the firepower.
“Billy (Vunipola) … generates a lot of force. To be able to get solutions there, one of our solutions was to go in behind those big men and we couldn’t quite get access there,” added Schmidt.
“There are only so many places you can go on that 70-by-100-metre bit of grass.
“As far as England are concerned, we will take a quick look back at them but for us now, it is all about Scotland and we will try to springboard our way in from there. But, I was impressed with England tonight.”