Paul O’Connell’s departure from Munster looks like being a long goodbye but vice-captain Denis Hurley admitted yesterday the loss of their iconic star will probably only sink in after the World Cup.
O’Connell’s Munster career ended with the loss to Glasgow Warriors in the Pro12 final in May but Hurley revealed the Irish captain still continues to train in the provincial set-up.
O’Connell will not link up with Toulon until after the World Cup but when Irish players go back to their clubs for training, the former Lions captain returns to Limerick.
“It has not fully sunk in yet,” said Hurley about O’Connell’s move. “He is still around the place because, up until now, there have been weeks where the Irish lads have been back to the clubs where they are doing their own training sessions so they are around the place.
“They could be in the gym training. A couple of the Irish lads could be together doing a gym session and then out on the pitch for a fitness session. They have their own schedules. It is not until after the World Cup when you actually see him running out with Toulon you maybe will say yeah, he is definitely gone,” said Hurley.
But Hurley insisted Munster have prepared for the departure of their talisman. “We have a lot of good characters in the group. There were times last year when the internationals were away that there were guys who were able to come on and have that bit of leadership on the field that was needed. As much as you would miss Paulie, things have got to move on. As a squad we have got to adapt and make the best of it,” said Hurley, at the launch of the Guinness Pro12 season in London.
Hurley, out with an ankle ligament injury, is set to miss the start of the season but is hopeful he will make it back a bit sooner than the eight to 10 weeks prognosis.
Meanwhile, Marty Moore still has hopes of making it to the World Cup, with Leinster coach Leo Cullen stating the foot injury picked up two weeks ago is not believed to be serious.
“He was due to play with us last weekend but had a problem with his foot that flared up. He has been under the national (medical) eyes since and we haven’t seen him back with us,” said Cullen.
“The honest answer is that I am not sure where he sits or whether he is going to be involved with Ireland this week. That would have been part of the original plan but I am not sure where he is at this moment in time. He had an issue that flared up with his foot but I don’t think it’s serious,” added Cullen.
The newly installed Leinster coach didn’t shed much light on whether Ian Madigan might provide cover as a third scrum-half in the Irish squad.
“Can Ian Madigan play scrum-half? I don’t know; you probably know better than I do. Ian Madigan is a very good footballer. He can pass, he can kick, he can manage the game, he’s tough and a strong defender; potentially yes.”
The make-up of the Irish squad for the World Cup will allow Cullen next week to plan for the opening rounds of the season and he said having the likes of Gordon D’Arcy available is a boost.
“I would have to have a good chat with Gordon about it. Having a guy of his experience would be invaluable for some of the guys in the squad.
“It depends on the whole make-up of the group.Everything becomes a bit more apparent this time next week because the players are named and we know who we are working with.
“If Gordon comes back into the mix, it’d be great to have him. He is the most capped Leinster player of all time so to have somebody of that level of experience during this phase would be really, really valuable.”
Meanwhile, Paul Marshall said he is hopeful his Ulster teammate Andrew Trimble will recover from a foot injury to stake a claim for a World Cup spot.
“He’s strong, he looks good, he’s done a bit of running before our friendly with Leinster there, he’s doing a bit with our fitness coach so from his point of view he’s obviously hoping to be able to play.
“I don’t know if it’s this week or next week, or both, but he’s obviously looking to feature and to make the World Cup squad. And I think a fully fit Andrew Trimble will be on the plane, so it will really just be up to him.”
Connacht coach Pat Lam said he is hopeful scrum-half Kieran Marmion will make the cut to feature in his first World Cup.
“There is no doubt that Kieran is good enough. I think everyone has seen what he can do. At the end of the day there are four good halfbacks and Joe (Schmidt) has to choose three and the World Cup is about the here and the now. Certainly for Isaac (Boss) and Eoin (Reddan) this is their last one. Kieran is 23.
“Joe is in a great situation where you want competition right through the squad. He has tough choices right through the Irish squad. I believe that Ireland can pick two strong 15s now and possibly a third.
“That is a credit to all the work has gone on in Irish rugby, the four provinces, the academies. Irish rugby is in such a good state at the moment.”
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