Ireland’s continuing injury misery will provide Munster back row Peter O’Mahony with his starting Test debut tomorrow against Scotland as his province received a fitness boost from captain Paul O’Connell.
The promotion of O’Mahony, 22, to the starting XV arose from yesterday’s withdrawal of Sean O’Brien, whose run at openside flanker has come to a halt after a skin infection on his foot failed to recover as quickly as expected, although Ireland manager Mick Kearney said he should be available for the final game of the campaign next week against England.
O’Brien’s absence compounds the loss of captain O’Connell and scrum-half Conor Murray after both were ruled out of the championship having picked up knee injuries in the 17-17 draw against France last Sunday in Paris.
O’Connell’s fellow lock Donncha O’Callaghan has been nursing a jarred ankle from that game and Keith Earls a tight groin, while Jonny Sexton got a bang on his foot in Tuesday’s light training session, with all three missing Wednesday’s core session of the week.
The flip side is that O’Mahony, having made appearances off the bench against Italy a fortnight ago and then France, gets an eagerly-anticipated start for his country just four months after making his Heineken Cup debut for Munster against Northampton.
In the meantime, O’Connell says he is “very hopeful” of being fit in time to face Ulster in Munster’s Heineken Cup quarter-final at Thomond Park on April 8.
O’Connell began rehabilitation on his injured left knee on Wednesday having suffered medial collateral ligament damage in his left knee last Sunday.
In a diary for IRFU website irishrugby.ie, the Munster captain wrote: “I started my rehab on Wednesday evening with the Munster physio Dave O’Sullivan. Earlier that day I was back in the gym doing upper body weights in the company of Alan Quinlan and Mike Prendergast. It was entertaining and a welcome distraction.
“When you damage the medial ligaments in your knee you have to wear a brace that helps, not so much to immobilise the joint but to restrict the movement. It clicks when I walk and I have already got some funny looks walking past people.
“The prognosis is four to six weeks with the Ulster match ... falling in the middle of that, but I would be very hopeful to be back in time for that game.”
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