Rhys Ruddock last night flew into Cardiff as the newest member of Ireland’s World Cup squad as Joe Schmidt moved swiftly to cover the departure of injured flanker Peter O’Mahony.
Munster captain O’Mahony had his tournament cruelly cut short on Sunday when he suffered knee ligament damage in the 24-9 victory over France at the Millennium Stadium.
He had left the field on a stretcher in the 55th minute after a typically abrasive and effective performance but initial reports from head coach Schmidt post-match suggested the 26-year-old forward was the least of Ireland’s three injury concerns after Paul O’Connell (hamstring) and Johnny Sexton (groin).
O’Mahony, however, left the stadium on crutches with his knee in a brace and yesterday came the bad news that the back rower was joining centre Jared Payne on his way home from the World Cup.
“Peter O’Mahony has suffered a knee ligament injury and is returning to Dublin today for specialist opinion and will take no further part in the tournament,” team manager Mick Kearney said while full-back Rob Kearney said the flanker had received plenty of support from his team-mates before departing.
“He was around last night. He was in there at breakfast this morning, so I’m not sure what time he’s heading off but everyone got to chat to him and console him a little bit last night,” Rob Kearney said.
“There’s a massive togetherness in there and everyone is certainly gutted to see him go.”
Leinster back row Ruddock is so far the only player to be called in to the 31-man squad as Schmidt waits to choose Payne’s replacement, preferring to assess what further damage may arise from the physical toll taken against the French.
Captain O’Connell’s likely exit after suffering a “significant hamstring injury” will require a new forward but there was more optimistic news regarding Sexton, who limped out of Sunday’s game in the 25th minute, although his availability for Sunday’s quarter-final against Argentina remains in doubt.
“Johnny Sexton suffered a groin injury,” Mick Kearney said. “Initial clinical assessment is encouraging and we await scanning later today.
‘The news is a lot more encouraging than we initially thought, so we’ll just wait and see what the situation is after the scan.
“After an incredibly physical encounter, a host of players are reporting bumps and bruises and soreness and will have to be managed but nothing more serious than that.
“As soon as we have more clarity on the injury front, we will be in a position to make decisions on replacement players.
“At the moment, definitively, only Peter O’Mahony has been ruled out. Paul was in hospital overnight, he was obviously very sore. He’s getting scanned at some stage this morning and we’ll be in a better position to make a decision on that later on.
“In relation to Jared Payne’s replacement, we’ll wait for a full injury report.”
Ireland moved base yesterday from Celtic Manor in Newport to a Cardiff city centre hotel in order to train this week at the Sport Wales National Centre, although such was the physical intensity of the France game that the players will be given an extra day’s rest today.
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