Henry injury puts O'Donnell in the frame
Ireland players continue to drop like flies and with the latest rash of injuries concentrating on the backrow, uncapped 25-year-old Munster openside Tommy O’Donnell is in the running to be on the replacements bench against Scotland at Murrayfield next Sunday.Indeed, his biggest rival at this juncture, ie the only other backrower in the squad still more or less standing, is his Munster team-mate, the uncapped 32-year-old number eight James Coughlan.
O’Donnell and Coughlan were called up to the 30-man Ireland squad when it was confirmed Ulster openside Chris Henry suffered a cartilage tear to his right knee in his team’s Pro 12 win at home to Zebre last Friday. The injury will require surgery and will rule Henry out for four weeks.
Connacht centre Dave McSharry has also been sidelined this week as he is still suffering from a niggling groin injury, and Ian Madigan has been called into the Irish camp.
With Gordon D’Arcy ruled out – along with Jonny Sexton, Simon Zebo, Mike McCarthy, the long-term casualties Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe, plus the suspended Cian Healy – the management will be particularly hopeful uncapped Ulster centre Luke Marshall will recover sufficiently from the dead legs he suffered in the Zebre game to take some part in training today.
The IRFU yesterday received the written judgment on Healy’s three-week suspension, which effectively runs to four weeks as it takes in the French game a fortnight after Sunday’s match, and have 72 hours to decide on whether to appeal.
Such has been the rash of injuries – Rhys Ruddock and Kevin McLaughlin are also unavailable – that when Declan Kidney tomorrow announces the side and replacements to face Scotland, as many as 11 of the starting XV who faced Fiji in the non-Test international at Thomond Park last November could be involved.
The starting XV for what is a must-win game will have to show at least five changes from the team which took the field against England. David Kilcoyne and Tom Court are vying for the number one jersey, with the latter’s experience alongside Rory Best and current form-cum-experience balanced against Kilcoyne’s raw power and open field ballast.
Donncha O’Callaghan looks like partnering Donnacha Ryan, with Iain Henderson’s good form earning him a place on the bench, and O’Donnell perhaps backing up the back-row.
It would seem Ronan O’Gara is set to start, with Paddy Jackson on the bench despite Madigan’s call-up.
Despite further evidence of Luke Fitzgerald’s continuing good form last Saturday evening, Fergus McFadden may be slightly ahead of him for a place on the bench, not least as he provides another place-kicking option.
Scotland have added 13 players to the squad on duty for their victory over Italy. The only absentee is Euan Murray, unavailable to play on Sunday because of his Christian faith.
The players called up are forwards Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Tom Ryder, John Barclay (all Glasgow), Alasdair Dickinson and Richie Vernon (Sale) and Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), and backs Sean Kennedy, Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne, Peter Murchie (all Glasgow), Tom Heathcote (Bath) and Nikki Walker (Worcester).
Scotland’s interim head coach Scott Johnson will also announce their team and replacements tomorrow.
IRELAND SQUAD(30): R Best (Ulster), D Cave (Ulster), T Court (Ulster), S Cronin (Leinster), J Coughlan (Munster), K Earls (Munster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), C Gilroy (Ulster), R Henshaw (Connacht), J Heaslip (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), P Jackson (Ulster), R Kearney (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), I Madigan (Leinster), L Marshall (Ulster), F McFadden (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), S O’Brien (Leinster), D O’Callaghan (Munster), T O’Donnell (Munster), B O’Driscoll (Leinster), R O’Gara (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), M Ross (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster), L Stevenson (Ulster), D Toner (Leinster).