Kidney may need to cast net wider to replace D'Arcy

Luke Marshall, one of the contenders to replace Gordon D'Arcy, lies injured on the pitch during Ulster's 26-3 win over Zebre at Ravenhill last night. Photograph: Inpho

Luke Marshall, one of the contenders to replace Gordon D'Arcy, lies injured on the pitch during Ulster's 26-3 win over Zebre at Ravenhill last night. Photograph: Inpho

Sat, Feb 16, 2013, 00:00

RUGBY:Gordon D’Arcy has been ruled out of the remainder of the Six Nations Championship following a stress injury to his right foot. The problem only came to light on Thursday when he complained of soreness before an Ireland squad training session and a scan revealed the extent of the injury.

An IRFU statement confirmed “the injury will require immobilisation in a boot for at least four weeks with a projected return to play of six weeks pending further tests and specialist review.”

Ireland coach Declan Kidney will be hoping his rapidly dwindling frontline resources are not further compromised during the weekend’s RaboDirect Pro12 fixtures.

Jonathan Sexton (hamstring), Mike McCarthy (medial knee ligament tear) and Cian Healy (suspension) will, at least, miss the game against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday week.

Ruled out

Simon Zebo (broken metatarsal) and D’Arcy have been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament, along with long- term injury victims Paul O’Connell (back), Richardt Strauss (ankle) and Tommy Bowe (knee).

Stephen Ferris (knee) is edging closer to a return but no definitive date has been offered.

D’Arcy, who celebrated his 33rd birthday last Sunday, the same day he won his 73rd cap for Ireland in their 12-6 defeat to England at the Aviva Stadium, went into the match having recovered from a leg injury sustained on the opening weekend of the tournament.

The Wexford native was forced to limp off after 45 minutes of Ireland’s 30-22 victory over Wales in the Millennium Stadium. It’s instructive to note that when he departed Ireland led 30-3.

He doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for the role he fulfils, in particular the defensive side of his duties. He and Brian O’Driscoll extended their world record midfield partnership to 50 against England.

Recent statistics bear out his importance to the team. During last summer’s tour to New Zealand, D’Arcy missed the first Test against the All Blacks in Auckland – Keith Earls partnered O’Driscoll – and Ireland lost 42-10.

He returned for the second Test alongside O’Driscoll, a game Ireland might have won before going down 22-19. He was an absentee through injury for the third Test – Paddy Wallace flew in from a family holiday in Portugal to join O’Driscoll in the midfield – and Ireland were thumped 60-0.

Non-cap match

Leaving aside the non-cap match against Fiji at Thomond Park last November when Luke Marshall and Darren Cave played together in the centre, the last time he missed an Ireland game prior to that tour to New Zealand was during the 2011 Rugby World Cup: Earls and Wallace played in the 62-12 win over Russia, as they had done as a pair in a tournament warm-up match against France in Bordeaux.

Wallace (leg) is injured, while Earls, Kidney’s favoured option in the past when replacing either O’Driscoll or D’Arcy in the Ireland midfield, has this weekend off.

He came on for the injured Zebo (10 minutes) on the left wing against England, eight days after replacing the injured D’Arcy in Cardiff, where he copped flak for a defensive error in the build-up to Alex Cuthbert’s try.

Kidney may elect to widen the net in his search for D’Arcy’s replacement and that may take in Leinster duo Luke Fitzgerald and Fergus McFadden. Unfortunately, neither is playing in the centre for their province today at the RDS; Fitzgerald is at fullback with McFadden on the right wing.

Darren Cave, who was part of the Ulster team last night, is principally an outside centre, while it would constitute a bold gamble for Kidney to turn to Ulster tyro Luke Marshall, given his lack of experience.

If that weren’t enough the casualty list also contains a number of hobbling wounded, including O’Driscoll, who soldiered through the end game against England with an ankle injury. Donnacha Ryan, Ireland’s lineout totem and a player who has been in excellent form so far in the campaign sat out training this week with a back complaint.

This doesn’t take into account another tranche of players nursing a compendium of bumps and bruises.

Meanwhile an IRFU spokesperson confirmed the union had not received the written verdict – it’s supposed to be available within 48 hours of the hearing – from Cian Healy’s disciplinary hearing in London last Wednesday and did not expect to be in a position to confirm whether they would appeal his suspension until Monday.

Ulster duo injured Henry and Marshall forced off at Ravenhill

There were further injury concerns for Ireland panellists at Ravenhill last night as flanker Chris Henry and centre Luke Marshall both had to leave the field in Ulster’s RaboDirect Pro12 victory over Zebre.

Henry, who has come off the bench for Ireland in both Six Nations games so far, went off in the 51st minute after suffering a knock to a leg.

Marshall, who started at inside centre, lasting just 37 minutes before having to be helped from the pitch, with the Ulster medical staff later revealing he had suffered two dead legs.

Iain Henderson left the pitch for 12 minutes in the first half, returning with a couple of stitches above his right eye before completing the 80 minutes.

There are plenty of potential squad members for the trip to Scotland in action today, with Leinster’s Luke Fitzgerald (fullback), Fergus McFadden (left wing), Ian Madigan (outhalf) and Devin Toner (secondrow) in the starting XV at the RDS this evening against Benetton Treviso.

Seán Cronin (hooker) and Eoin Reddan (scrumhalf), who were both in Ireland’s matchday squad against England, will also start.

Ronan O’Gara starts at outhalf for Munster against the Scarlets in Parc y Scarlets tonight. Ian Keatley is named at fullback, while Donncha O’Callaghan partners Ian Nagle in the secondrow.

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