Brian O’Driscoll to rage against the dying of the light

Calf injury threatening to deny him one last tilt at All Blacks, Sexton and Kearney also concerns


Brian O’Driscoll’s calf injury is threatening to deny Ireland’s greatest ever player one last tilt at beating the All Blacks this Sunday.

As was the case with the disgusted reaction when attempts were made to replace him after 23 minutes of Saturday’s 32-15 defeat to Australia, O’Driscoll remains determined to make his 136th test match appearance.

“I would be pretty positive,” he said today. “I’ve been unfortunate this year that I’ve had a few niggly things and this calf has slowed me down a little bit.

“I got it at training and it kept me out for longer than I thought. It has just stayed with me a little bit. I could feel it at the weekend a bit but I managed to see out the game.

“But there are lots of times I haven’t played at 100 per cent fitness and all going well, if I handle the week well I shouldn’t be far off 100 per cent come the weekend.”

So no lingering doubt about your ability to recover?

“Not in my head.”

Still, the injury that saw him temporarily replaced for seven minutes last Saturday is restricting his involvement in training to such an extent that Ulster’s Darren Cave has been called into camp.

Regardless of his renowned powers of recovery, certain facts are unavoidable. O’Driscoll has started only three matches this season, without completing 80 minutes in any of them, and tore his calf muscle – a notoriously difficult injury to heal – in the days after Leinster’s 34-20 victory over the Cardiff Blues on September 27th.

Since then he lasted 69 minutes against Samoa and played 73 minutes against Australia.

“That’s not any excuse for not playing brilliantly. There are plenty of other games when I have managed injuries, that’s part and parcel of our game now. You have to be able to cope with dead legs and small muscle injuries and seeing through the game in its entirety.”

Alternatives in camp for the 13 jersey, should the 34 year not recover, are Robbie Henshaw and Gordon D’Arcy (with Luke Marshall retained at 12) or even Luke Fitzgerald – who Joe Schmidt has identified as a centre down the tracks.

Fitzgerald is also battling with the frontrunner Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble to replace Fergus McFadden at left wing.

“Fergus McFadden has unfortunately fractured the fifth metacarpal in his right hand,” said team manager Mick Kearney today. “He’ll be sidelined for a number of weeks.

“Brian suffered some calf tightness so Darren Cave has been called in to add a bit of flexibility to training this week. Felix Jones has also been called in as cover for the week.

Rob Kearney suffered a blow to the ribs and has a subluxed costal cartilage. This was very painful at the time and is improving well but he won’t train for the early part of the week. It is very much a day-to-day injury and is hard to tell at this stage whether he will be available to play Sunday.”

A subluxation of the costal cartilage is a partial dislocation of the rib, also known as a slipped rib. There is usually an audible click. In some cases it requires surgery and a medical expert informed The Irish Times that recovery within seven days is highly unlikely.

Despite playing outside centre for most of this season, Henshaw would be the likely starter at fullback ahead of Jones.

Either way, expect at least one ‘either/or’ in Friday’s team announcement.

Johnny Sexton pulled up with a suspected hamstring strain, he was scanned on Saturday night and results were less worrying than initially feared,” Kearney continued. “He has already begun intensive rehabilitation and like Rob will be monitored on a daily basis.

“In terms of his chances of been ready for Sunday, the only thing I can say at this stage is that he hasn’t been ruled out.”

There was no mention of a hamstring tear, despite the obvious emotional distress on Sexton’s face as he left the field at half-time against Australia.

Finally, there were no forward injuries reported with Shane Jennings providing backrow cover along with Kevin McLaughlin and James Coughlan.

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