Luke Fitzgerald latest doubt with recurring troublesome lower abdominal strain
Eoin Reddan given until tomorrow to see if he can overcome calf strain
Conor Murray and the Ireland international squad during a training sesssion at Carton House, Co Kildare, yesterday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Sunday due to a troublesome lower abdominal strain which he has been nursing in recent weeks.
Mike McCarthy is also unlikely to feature after requiring a reputed 25 stitches following his stamping by the since suspended Ian Evans last Friday week.
Reddan has been given until Friday in the unlikely event that he will overcome the calf strain he picked up in training on Tuesday, but it has since emerged that Fitzgerald is even more doubtful due to a recurring problem which he had been overcoming impressively with Leinster and which has required careful management in the Irish camp over the last week and a half.
Both team manager Mick Kearney and defence coach Les Kiss yesterday rated Reddan a “very doubtful” inclusion in the match-day squad to be announced tomorrow, and Isaac Boss has been called into the squad after his man-of-the-match performance in the Wolfhounds’ win over the Saxons last Saturday.
Reddan had been in excellent form for Leinster in recent months, notably in their wins away to Northampton and Castres, with his speed to the breakdown, crisp service and high proportion of snipes converted into telling breaks.
He would have given Ireland something different, and may even have been pushing Conor Murray for a starting place as against Australia in November, despite the latter’s excellent performance against the All Blacks a week later. That said, Boss’ own good form and experience is a consolation, and he is likely to resume his place on the bench against New Zealand.
Fitzgerald was also a replacement that day, and had also been in fine form for Leinster. All the old confidence, footwork and ability to break a line had returned to his game and given the injuries to Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls, Fitzgerald had looked likely to start against Scotland.
However, as with Earls, the injury jinx has struck with cruel timing again. Fergus McFadden, who grew stronger and more effective as the Wolfhounds game wore on upon his return, would seem favourite to start on one wing, with Dave Kearney on the other, given he played against Samoa and Australia. By contrast, Andrew Trimble and Felix Jones did not.
Akin to Reddan, it is conceivable that Fitzgerald could re-enter the equation for the Welsh game on Saturday week, and likewise Bowe, Gilroy and Zebo for the third game against England.
“It might be unlikely that Eoin is going to be there but we will give him a chance,” said Kiss from the squad’s base at Carton House yesterday. “Bossy has been here with us the last couple of weeks but he had a sensational game against the Saxons so he is ready to step into the breach.”
As for McCarthy, it now transpires that his facial wounds have severely limited his training time. “To tell you the truth he didn’t look nice,” admitted Kiss. “His face had swelled up and there was a lot of fluid and it kinda escapes into parts of the body and it stuck in the skull area. It did look bad but it has come down a lot. We had to get him to wear a lot gear to protect it so there are some issues around it. It wouldn’t stop him playing but it could still open up.”
Unlike Ireland, the Scots unveiled their hand yesterday and it appeared their 10-12-13 axis of Duncan Weir, Duncan Taylor and Alex Dunbar surprised the Irish management a little, with Kiss admitting he half expected Matt Scott to be included in their midfield.
“It’s an interesting team,” Kiss said. “They’ve probably loaded the bench a bit more. On my count 230-odd caps on the bench, that’s fairly hefty, and also their pack’s got 241, and 146 in the backs, so it’s a fairly handy sort of team. That’s 620 caps, that’s big in Test rugby so they’re fairly experienced.”
Difficult to control
“They’ve thrown up Duncan Taylor at 12 from Saracens, Alex Dunbar at 13. You’d probably be thinking Scott would get involved there but Taylor’s done a good job at Saracens and a good job in a couple of games I’ve seen for Scotland in the past. He’s a big, hard up and down runner, runs good lines and is a difficult guy to control.”
The potency of their back three, Sean Maitland, Stuart Hogg and Sean Lamont also has to be hugely respected, as infield target runners as well as out wide after their hard-carrying back-row set up the platform.
The Scots had used their summer series in South Africa, Samoa and Italy, to expand their squad, while their autumn form against South Africa and Australia was discoloured by the heavy Murrayfield pitches, even if it underlined how nothing came easy against them.
Ireland’s performance against the All Blacks was a reference point, in selection as well, conceded Kiss, but it was also in the distant pass and the next game “can be a totally different picture” all the more so against “a very tenacious and relentless team who can spoil you.
“So we need good accuracy, we need to bring the right amount of aggression and passion that doesn’t get in the way of that accuracy but co-exists and gets that nice element out of our players but also have discipline in our whole game because they (Scotland) are a team that can hurt you if you’re not disciplined.
“Not only with penalties but with loose ball, loose kicks they can hurt you at any time.”