Joe Schmidt confirms Brian O’Driscoll will be fit for Italy clash
Ireland coach says Peter O’Mahony and Jonathan Sexton suffering from wear and tear
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has allayed concerns that Brian O’Driscoll’s troublesome calf will deny the 35-year-old one final run out at the Aviva Stadium against Italy on Saturday week.
“Brian O’Driscoll was cramp and he trained yesterday, individually, and he should train Wednesday and Thursday,” said Schmidt at today’s media briefing at the Aviva Stadium.
“He’s fine. He actually hasn’t had much game time this year in total so he’s still pretty fresh.”
In contrast Peter O’Mahony, blood on hamstring, remains a concern ahead of Italy’s visit to Dublin while Jonathan Sexton has returned to Paris with his hand in a splint.
“Peter O’Mahony has no respect for his body,” Schmidt continued. “He has had a fantastic series so far. His hamstring, there is a little bit of blood, so those things normally clear up reasonably quickly. It is a case of managing Pete this week so he can train next week.”
Sexton took a couple of heavy knocks during the 13-10 defeat at Twickenham but, again, Schmidt predicted “he should still be available for the final two games”.
“He hurt his thumb. It wasn’t bad. He was fully functional, he could still pass, he could still do everything. We are going to get more feedback on that over the next few days. Hopefully he will be fine.
“We got some scans to read and by Thursday when we are next out we’ll have some more information on that.”
Sexton has returned to Paris. If Racing Metro 92 select him against Castres this weekend it proves he has fully recovered but, either way, his availability to start against Italy remains a doubt.
“There are guys, like Johnny and Peter, who may be getting some wear and tear about them and that may guide us in a particularly direction regarding selection.”
When asked about the possibility of those on the outside, specifically Simon Zebo, breaking into his match-day 23, Schmidt replied: “He’s alongside a number of other players as someone we are watching really closely. I’ve had conversations with Simon. I’ve spoke to him recently.
“We believe Dave Kearney has been outstanding so far,” Schmidt countered. “A couple of his aerial takes at the weekend were outstanding. His ruck work was outstanding. Defensively his tackle quality has been good and when there’s not space he has been elusive.
“Andrew Trimble has been very effective for us as well.”
That appears to indicate a loyalty to the incumbent wingers despite Luke Fitzgerald and possibly, although more unlikely, Tommy Bowe’s return.
Fitzgerald, however, could challenge Fergus McFadden for the number 23 jersey.
The squad gather in Belfast tomorrow, where they will train at Cooke Instonians RFC, with a particular focus on being more clinical down the home straight.
“Maybe we tried a little too hard in those last 10 minutes. 69 minutes we got that scrum turnover. I felt we were pretty unlucky there, there was a hand in the scrum and we didn’t get a reward for that.
“We had a maul soon after that that we got a bit unlucky about that but there was a bit of structure about what we were doing there. Post that it became a little frenetic.
“Maybe in those last 10 minutes we could’ve played with a little more control.”
And that Schmidt feels can be corrected if and when that situation arises again. Perhaps even at the Stade de France.