Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne looks set to miss Ireland’s opening two games of the NatWest 6 Nations but Joe Schmidt is confident Ulster wing Jacob Stockdale will return to training by the end of the week.
The head coach delivered the latest injury update ahead of Ireland’s championship opener against France in Paris in nine days as he attended yesterday’s Six Nations launch in London, leaving his players on their day off during a five-day camp in Spain.
Loosehead prop Kilcoyne failed to make the plane to Valencia last Monday to begin his recovery from a knee injury suffered the day before in Munster’s Champions Cup pool win over Castres.
The in-form front-rower, who edged ahead of British & Irish Lion Jack McGrath in the Irish pecking order during November’s Guinness Series, was replaced in the Ireland squad by provincial loosehead rival James Cronin.
In equally good form after four tries in four Tests, Stockdale suffered a dead leg in Ulster’s European loss at Wasps on Sunday but did travel with the squad to the five-star Oliva Nova resort for this week’s warm-weather training.
“It is not too bad,” Schmidt said of Ireland’s injury profile.
“We had a couple of guys come into camp with a few niggles, I think Jacob Stockdale will progress pretty quickly, he will be available to train by the end of the week.
“The only loss we had was Dave Kilcoyne. It looks like his injury will be two to three weeks. It is highly unlikely he will be involved against France but he potentially could be involved against Italy so that’s probably as up to date as we can be on him.”
Schmidt also gave updates on longer-term casualties, Leinster back-rowers Sean O’Brien (hip) and Jamie Heaslip (back), and centre Garry Ringrose (ankle), as well as Ulster backs Jared Payne (migraines) and Craig Gilroy (cheekbone).
“There is a potential for Sean O’Brien maybe to get back for rounds four and five, Jamie Heaslip is a bit longer term, Garry Ringrose is another one who could potentially get back in the latter rounds. Jared Payne has been longer term as well, Craig Gilroy another one who is reasonably short term so there is a real mix without going through the full list and it is something that is inevitably quite a moveable assessment because guys respond to their rehab or else they take a little longer.”
With Rhys Ruddock also injured, the absence of Sean O’Brien leaves Schmidt with reduced options at openside flanker.
“We are very conscious of what Sean brings to the team and I thought Rhys was probably as good as he ever was in the summer tour and in November. You might reflect on that but you focus on who’s there and we are a little bit more excited about who’s there... Sean is not there but Josh van der Flier, Jordi Murphy and Dan Leavy are.
“Jamie Heaslip and Rhys aren’t there but Jack Conan has been beating the door down for a while waiting for an opportunity and I think he has demonstrated an ability to take those opportunities and you have got CJ Stander there and Pete O’Mahony there with Rhys missing.”
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