Illness in Ireland squad may force Les Kiss to alter selection for Canada Test
Four players placed in isolation as stomach bug breaks out in camp
Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony on the BMO Stadium pitch in Toronto yesterday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Typical. Midway through the final week of the most injury cursed season Irish rugby has ever experienced and a stomach bug breaks out among the squad, disrupting preparations ahead of Saturday’s Test match against Canada at Toronto FC’s BMO Field.
Anxious not to hand the hosts any advantage by releasing the names of those who have fallen ill, interim head coach Les Kiss did concede a collective training session cannot take place until tomorrow.
“The team I have penned at this stage may have to adapt because of the situation,” said Kiss. “There will be some changes (from the US match). There are a couple of minor injuries. Will they keep players out? We’re not sure but they won’t be able to prep and train all week.”
Kiss stated the squad depth is strong enough – 28 on tour after Simon Zebo’s Lions call-up – to absorb this latest problem so none of the players on standby or at the Tbilisi Cup will be required.
“We’re in a situation where we will not have a full squad training (today) as there is unwellness in the squad,” Kiss continued. “We’ve just got to deal with it. These stomach upsets do happen when you travel.”
There are 90-plus Irish contracted players currently spread across four different tours, with 11 selected by the Lions, the Emerging Ireland squad in Georgia, the Under-20s at the Junior World Championship in France and the senior group here.
Team doctor Jim McShane certainly has his work cut out this week as the situation is considered serious enough for at least four players to be put in isolation at the Sheraton hotel base camp.
Togging out for tomorrow’s training session now seems a prerequisite for selection.
At least Peter O’Mahony removed any doubt about his availability yesterday, despite a bruised elbow, while Fergus McFadden (neck and head), Robbie Henshaw (shoulder) and Chris Henry (gash over eye) are on the mend. You imagine O’Mahony would chop off the limb and soldier on.
Granted, he has led Munster and Ireland at every age grade but, like Jamie Heaslip during the Six Nations, these past few weeks would have given him an insight into the increased responsibilities the senior captain must shoulder.
A different type of leader than Ireland have had for some time, the 23-year-old Cork backrow has visibly grown into the role, confidently talking before Kiss at yesterday’s top table press conference. Sam Warburton is probably the closest comparison.
He also communicated cleverly, and quietly, with the frazzled looking referee Francisco Pastrama during Saturday’s game in Houston. In contrast, US captain Todd Clever seemed to be constantly nagging the Argentinean.
“You have a couple of quiet words in his ear but there is no point shouting and roaring at fellas or constantly annoying him,” said O’Mahony.
Leighton Hodges from Wales takes control this weekend so Ireland are hopeful the breakdown will be policed more efficiently.
“It’s up to us to get the breakdown right. We weren’t up to any one’s standards against the US, never mind our own, so we have to improve big time. It’s not about numbers it’s about precision.”
An obvious positive from last Saturday’s 15-12 victory was Irish discipline with O’Mahony noting the team only coughed up six penalties. “That’s the standard we want to be setting. James Pritchard is a good kicker so every time they are in our territory we’ll obviously be conscious of it.”
Canada have their own problems with Matt Evans, Sean Duke and Jebb Sinclair yet to pass the IRB concussion protocols after their attritional victory over Tonga last weekend.
It means their New Zealand- born coach Kieran Crowley won’t name his team until Friday. Glasgow winger DTH van der Merwe is the major absentee through injury.