Peter O’Mahony and Bundee Aki face a race against the clock to prove their fitness for Ireland’s meeting with World Cup hosts Japan this Saturday following failed Head Injury Assessments in the win over Scotland.
With Ireland having just a six-day turnaround between games, and HIA protocols requiring a minimum period of the same length for players to complete the required return-to-play tests, the odds appear stacked against both players.
Centre Aki was removed 21 minutes into the Pool A opener in Yokohama, with flanker O’Mahony following him into the medical room five minutes later. Neither would return though both players watched the rest of the match from the Ireland dugout.
Head coach Joe Schmidt said of Aki and O’Mahony: “They are both symptom-free at the moment, that’s reassuring but we’ve got to go through the process. They failed HIA 1 so they’ll go through HIA 2, HIA 3. That will determine whether or not they’ve got a concussion.
Beyond that, the minimum time you can turn around a player is six days so we’ll look at how that pans out, probably over the next 24 hours when they do their HIA 2 and HIA 3.
Given that Schmidt tends to select his matchday squad from those who have participated in both main training sessions in a game week, Saturday’s game may come too soon for both. There were also concerns over both tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong and fly-half Johnny Sexton.
Furlong, a tryscorer in the 25th minute, received extensive on-field treatment on his right leg early in the second half but continued for another six minutes until replaced in the 49th as Schmidt brought on his front-row reinforcements Andrew Porter and loosehead Dave Kilcoyne for Cian Healy.
Sexton, meanwhile, took two conversions before handing the goal-kicking duties to scrum-half Conor Murray midway through the opening half, though he was not replaced by Jack Carty until the 57th minute, following Ireland’s fourth try of the match as Schmidt withdrew his half-backs with victory all but secured.
The head coach said neither Sexton nor Furlong was injured.
“Tadhg is fine, Johnny is fine. We decided to get him off, Conor off.”