Another day, another clean bill of health for Ireland’s World Cup squad and the luxury of not having to rush Robbie Henshaw back into service at the earliest opportunity.
Pool D rivals France are still coming to terms with the loss of star wing Yoann Huget, who suffered a tournament-ending knee injury during Saturday’s win over Italy, who in turn lost Andrea Masi in the same game.
Wales were forced to rule out centre Cory Allen, who followed Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny out of their squad after tearing his hamstring during the victory against Uruguay.
The Irish management, on the other hand, were sitting pretty in their home for the week at St George’s Park, training base of the England football team near Burton-on-Trent. There had been no overnight changes to Sunday’s medical bulletin that all was well after Saturday’s 50-7 win over Canada in Cardiff and centre Robbie Henshaw’s hamstring was improving having been sat out from the weekend’s opening fixture at the Millennium Stadium.
Defence coach Les Kiss yesterday suggested time was on Ireland’s side as regards reintroducing Henshaw and that there was no pressure to get the Connacht midfield star fit for Sunday’s clash with Romania at Wembley.
“We will take the medics’ advice, of course, but he has accelerated nicely.” Kiss reported. “It is not an issue at the moment. We’re not going to push him unnecessarily. He is in a good place. We are pretty optimistic overall.” Which has Ireland in a very good place to give game time to all 31 squad members by full-time this weekend, while their opponents contemplate two matches in five days against tier-one nations, starting with France tomorrow night at the Olympic Stadium.
“France have lost Huget, that is a big loss. Italy have lost Masi....look it is a good position (that we are in). Touch wood it continues,” Kiss added.
“Ideally (we would use all 31). We will sit down after today and talk about that. My initial take on Romania is we know they have experience in the front-row. They rely a lot on that set-piece. There is a challenge there. Maybe there’s an opportunity to expose a few blokes to them. I think they won their Nations Cup recently so they will back themselves. For us it is important we don’t take our eye of the ball. We have a lot of faith in this squad.”
Japan’s win over South Africa in Brighton on Saturday has removed any danger of complacency this weekend but Romania’s tough schedule is undoubtedly to Ireland’s advantage in an already one-sided looking match-up.
The only problem it presents the Irish are the problems Romanian head coach Lynn Howells has in putting out two sides inside a week to take on two higher-ranked teams.
Not that there will be much sympathy for their plight from an Ireland camp eager to continue winning ways and build strongly towards more exacting pool dates with the Italians and French.
“I feel for what their challenge is for sure but you know that at the beginning,” Kiss said. “It’s where you’re seeded that matters. There’s no way around it unless you change the pool numbers and all that sort of stuff.
“I wouldn’t try to have sympathy because I’m sure they’re not feeling sorry for themselves. They just want to get out there and do it. They’ll put up a challenge, that’s for sure.
“What Japan did the other day should tell us all that anything is possible under any circumstances. If you take your eye off the ball because of that then you’ve just done yourself an injustice and probably disrespected them. So we don’t intend to do that.”
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