Conor Murray set to face England, but changes in personnel likely

Conor Murray’s chances of facing England in Dublin on Saturday appear to be improving but Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt may make personnel changes elsewhere as he bids to prevent a third defeat of the 2017 RBS 6 Nations campaign.

Ireland will today issue a squad update following Friday’s painful 22-9 defeat to Wales in Cardiff with scrum-half Murray the chief concern after receiving a stinger injury to his left shoulder when tackling George North in the 29th minute.

Murray received treatment on the field but despite clearly struggling with his passing and tackling he remained on the pitch and even emerged for the second half as Ireland battled on in the absence of his yellow-carded half-back partner Johnny Sexton.

Schmidt explained post-match that the player had felt the problem was improving over the half-time interval and so was allowed to return for the second period only to be replaced within five minutes of the restart.

Fly-half Sexton also spent 10 minutes sidelined for a Head Injury Assessment before his sin-binning after a bang to the face while 79th-minute replacement Tommy Bowe lasted just seconds on the pitch before being carted off with an ankle injury. He was sent for X-rays immediately, the results of which will be known today at Carton House, although his chances of passing fit for Saturday seem slim.

“They determined (with Sexton) it should be an HIA,” Schmidt said. “At no stage was he static or lame on the ground. It was the thigh, so it wasn’t the hard point of the knee either. He was just putting his head down as the leg came through so he copped a bit of a ding.”

Schmidt dismissed fears that CJ Stander had also been withdrawn with an injury in the 63rd minute when replaced by fellow Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony, although the head coach’s suggestion that it was a tactical switch was perhaps more surprising given he took off Ireland’s most effective back rower.

O’Mahony was impressive off the bench but Ireland may have been better served had he replaced either Jamie Heaslip or Sean O’Brien, both of whom were contained by the Welsh.

O’Mahony also provided a boost to Ireland’s misfiring lineout in Cardiff and his inclusion this Saturday against England may help to provide some much-needed variety to a set piece unlocked three times by Wales.

“We’ll look at all the options,” Schmidt said of his lineout selection options.

“We’re asking a lot of Dev (Toner) and Donnacha (Ryan) to make sure that we are trying to get access to the best ball that we can off the lineout.

“In the end, they will have learned a bit from tonight and they will continue to learn. I agree.

“Peter O’Mahony is a really good lineout operator and that’s always something that we factor in. When he did come on, I think we still lost one. A personnel change doesn’t necessarily solve a problem. It’s about accumulating experience and learning from it.”

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