Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt’s options at scrum-half for the RBS 6 Nations are still no clearer after Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan received their first medical assessments from the national team’s medical staff.
Schmidt’s Ireland squad convened at their training base in Maynooth, Kildare on Sunday night with a number of players bringing injuries into the Six Nations camp, not least scrum-halves Murray and Reddan, who face a race to be fit to face Italy in Rome on February 7.
Murray missed Munster’s final Champions Cup pool games against Saracens and Sale Sharks with a neck injury sustained against Zebre in the Pro12 three weeks ago. The first-choice number nine had been sent to a neurologist by Munster last week and the player was not cleared to play against Sale on Sunday, while yesterday’s medical bulletin issued by the IRFU merely stated: “Conor is scheduled to have further scans this week.”
Reddan, meanwhile, limped out of Leinster’s Champions Cup win at his former club Wasps on Saturday having suffered strained medial ligaments in his knee and the IRFU yesterday reported he was being rehabbed in an effort to be fit for the first game of the Six Nations in Italy in 12 days. With fly-half Jonathan Sexton set to miss the opener as he concludes a 12-week concussion break, Schmidt will be anxious to have at least one experienced Test half-back in his ranks but there was better news for his third scrum-half, Kieran Marmion. He along with Connacht team-mate Robbie Henshaw and Munster’s Keith Earls was declared fit to train this week ahead of possible inclusion in Friday night’s A international between the Wolfhounds and England Saxons in Cork.
Leinster captain and No.8 Jamie Heaslip, in the words of provincial boss Matt O’Connor, has been playing “pretty banged up” with a shoulder injury of late and the Ireland verdict is that he will be rested from contact this week as he continues to recover. But the outlook appears bleaker for fellow forwards Dave Foley and Rhys Ruddock. Munster lock
Foley was replaced at half-time against Sale due to a wrist problem that was yesterday confirmed by the IRFU as ligament damage, and the second row who made his test debut against Georgia in November before appearing off the bench against Australia will have a surgical consultation this week to determine where he requires an operation.
Back row Ruddock did not join up with the extended Ireland squad on Sunday night and will continue his recovery from a broken arm suffered playing for Leinster against Harlequins in December.
Back in Connacht, meanwhile, a trio of back rowers yesterday signed contract extensions for the Challenge Cup quarter-finalists.
Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu and Eoghan Masterson have all put pen to paper to keep them with the westerners. McKeon and Masterson signed new two-year deals that will see them play at the Sportsground until at least the summer of 2017 while Connacht’s New Zealander Naoupu opted to activate the third year on his current contract that runs to the summer of 2016.
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