Earls ruled out of second test


Rugby:There was mixed news on the injury front for Ireland this morning with Cian Healy and Declan Fitzpatrick expected to be available for the second test against New Zealand. Keith Earls, however, was ruled out of next weekend’s match against the world champions after he sustained a pectoral muscle injury in the later stages of yesterday’s 42-10 defeat at Eden Park.

Healy had to be replaced in the second half of the loss with a shoulder injury and coach Declan Kidney had said afterwards the injury was a concern. The 24-year-old, however, had improved over the last 24 hours and would be monitored during the week, along with tighthead prop Fitzpatrick, who was also injured during the match.

The debutant's injury, initially thought to be a hamstring strain, turned out to be a gluteal muscle strain. Neither of the front rowers have been ruled out of contention for selection for the second test in Christchurch next Saturday.

The tourists could have faced a crisis in their front row this week with regular tighthead Mike Ross still suffering a hamstring injury that kept him out of the first test.

Peter O’Mahony, meanwhile, has warned his team-mates they cannot afford to dwell on the mistakes they made yesterday if they are to make it a closer contest next weekend. Debutant winger Julian Savea scored a hat-trick for the All Blacks as Ireland had no answer for the pace and power of the world champions’ backline.

O’Mahony, 22, making making his first international start at blindside flanker, acquitted himself well, winning two crucial turnovers as New Zealand swarmed forward, but admitted the tourists contributed to their own downfall.

“We’re disappointed,” O’Mahony said. “It was a different pace. The speed of the game was a lot quicker but we did ourselves no favours with the amount of turnovers we gave them. They are too good a team to be turning over ball to them that much.

“We don’t have enough time to keep our heads down or beat ourselves up about everything. We have another Test Saturday and another opportunity. We go back to work. It was intense game and hugely physical throughout.

“We’ve got to cut down the amount of errors and look at our breakdown work. We’ll have a look at it during the week and come up with a few things. They’re a good side, but we’ll be all right. We’ll come back from it.”

Jamie Heaslip also admitted costly turnovers and the All Blacks’ impressive line speed were the two deciding factors in the match at Eden Park. “The goal, the thing that everyone is chasing, is quick ball,” said Heaslip.

“Their forwards provided a great launching platform with quick ball. With Dan (Carter) pulling the strings, they have really good guys that can hit it up in the middle as well as really good finishers with outstanding pace. If those guys can get consistent quick ball, it puts your defensive system under pressure. It was kind of hard, it was very quick at times out there and that’s hard to defend against.”

Ireland started off the first Test with some exciting, running rugby of their own, but they were often repelled backward and, in turn, spilled balls that the All Blacks pounced on. “I think holding onto the ball rather than turning it over is the best way to play the game,” Heaslip said.

“When we held on to it, I think, that we posed some questions and made some inroads in their defence, when we got reasonably quick ball. However, when it slowed right down, their line was set and it was hard to break it down.”

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw spoke after the match about his side raising their level for next week’s meeting in Christchurch and head coach Steve Hansen reflected on “a couple of tries we blew”.

Heaslip added: “That is exactly why they are world champions, they set their standard like any other team. I’m sure Richie would be demanding more of their players like Brian (O’Driscoll), and the leaders of our team, would be demanding of our players in the coming week.”