Ireland’s bruising RBS 6 Nations campaign will not force Declan Kidney to make sweeping changes today when he names his team to face Scotland this Saturday, a game just six days after the physically intense contest with France last weekend.
That was the message from Ireland assistant coach Mark Tainton yesterday as the squad was reduced to just a “light jog around” at Carton House yesterday in the wake of the hard-fought 17-17 draw in Paris 48 hours earlier. Tainton cautioned not to expect unenforced alterations from last weekend’s line-up, saying changes would be “really limited” and “probably doubtful”.
Ireland, it seems, have enough problems without causing further disruption.
Kidney’s matchday squad will definitely not feature captain Paul O’Connell or scrum-half Conor Murray, ruled out on Monday for the rest of the campaign after both suffered knee injuries in Sunday’s game at Stade de France. Team manager Mick Kearney yesterday revealed Keith Earls, Sean O’Brien and Donncha O’Callaghan are also doubts to face Scotland.
Fears that the man tipped to assume the captaincy today, hooker Rory Best, was also an injury doubt were allayed last night when a scan on bruised ribs suffered against the French revealed no fractures. That really would have cast a shadow on a campaign that has seen the Irish pack lose its leader a week after illness ruled forwards coach Gert Smal out of the management set-up for the rest of the championship.
The postponed match in frozen Paris on February 11 that handed Ireland four Tests in four weeks has not helped matters. And now the arduous schedule is beginning to bite, with the loss of O’Connell and Murray and the fresh injury concerns and the six-day turnaround between the French and Scottish games. O’Connell saw a specialist last night to review the medial collateral ligament injury that requires between four and six weeks’ recovery but manager Kearney confirmed no surgery was required for the Munster captain.
“In relation to Conor (Murray), thankfully the scans were better than expected. There is no ligament damage but there is extensive bone bruising around the knee and he’s very sore. 3-4 weeks,” Kearney said before listing a tight groin for Earls, a jarred ankle for O’Callaghan and a skin infection on O’Brien’s foot that kept them out of training yesterday and may see them all miss today’s core session, the only major hit out before Saturday.
“It’s a long injury list. The medical team would be hopeful that Keith, Donncha and Sean will all come through,” the manager added. “It’s not certain whether they will train (today) at this stage so it may be Friday before they get a run out. The medical team are confident all three will be okay to play but they will be monitored over the next 24 to 48 hours.”
Tainton said the six-day turnaround had enforced a softly softly approach.
“We’re not going to try and overdo it. We’re not going to overrun them this week,” Tainton said. “We’re trying to make sure they’re as fresh as possible for the game against Scotland because the Scots have had two weeks to get prepared for this game, get fresh and get their injured players back onto the field.
“So we know it’s going to be a big ask and they’re going to come here and probably try and play a very fast tempo game and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready and we can match that.”
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