Greg Feek made no bones about it yesterday.
Casualty lists like that being managed by Joe Schmidt right now can be the “death warrant” for a coach, but the Kiwi scrum guru spoke confidently about Ireland’s ability to overcome such adversity in next month’s Guinness Series.
Schmidt was devoid of 15 players, many established internationals, when he named his squad for the games against South Africa, Georgia and Australia recently and he isn’t alone in doing without some familiar faces.
His England counterpart Stuart Lancaster is without 10 senior men and Warren Gatland has his own problems in Wales. That volume of absentees has prompted renewed concern over the demands on the modern player.
Damian Hopley, chief executive of the Rugby Players’ Association and a former England player, has this week called for player welfare, rest periods in particular, to be prioritised through a restructuring of the global season.
“Both hemispheres have times of the year when they get injuries,” said Feek when asked if the European sides would be at a disadvantage next month with their injury profiles. “In the ITM Cup, Canterbury had nine or ten out and that was on the back of a Super 15 campaign. So the timing of injuries are crystal ball gazing.
“Hopefully with scientists and research, they can detect a pattern. And if it comes down to what you are alluding to, they may make changes. At the moment, it can be a death warrant for a coach. But if you have a good group of people around you and players willing to come in and fill the void, then it can be a positive. That’s how we look at it. We have to.”
There was some encouraging news on that front for Feek yesterday with Leinster loosehead prop Jack McGrath training at team HQ and showing no ill effects of the arm injury sustained with Leinster in Castres on Sunday.
Leinster tighthead prop Mike Ross took a very light part in training and it is hoped he will participate fully next week. Ross has sat out his province’s two recent Rugby Champions Cup outings and back-up Martin Moore is already unavailable. There’s no change to Munster loosehead James Cronin’s situation. He still awaits word on a scan on his injured ankle.
Leinster backs Rob Kearney (back) and Gordon D’Arcy (groin) both continue to be managed while their Ulster colleagues Stuart Olding and Tommy Bowe are being taken through return-to-play protocols.
There was good news for Ireland and Leinster with the province announcing the return to training of Fergus McFadden, Dave Kearney and Jordi Murphy. Shane Jennings has also returned.
“We need to build depth in the squad anyway and this is a chance,” said new forwards coach Simon Easterby of the list of wounded. “Those guys who can’t make this series, it gives other guys the opportunity to come in and put their hand up and stake a claim.”
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