Injured Horgan set to miss France tie
Shane Horgan's dream season turned decidedly sour over the weekend after the Six Nations' joint leading try scorer suffered damaged knee ligaments in his club's 35-16 win at Dungannon on Saturday and will now almost certainly be ruled out of Ireland's game with France in Paris next Sunday.
The converted Irish winger, who has scored three tries in his two international appearances, will go for a scan today according to Irish manager Donal Lenihan. "He phoned me after the match and the suspicion was that it was knee cartilage damage, but we won't know for sure until after he has had an MRI scan," said Lenihan. John Hayes didn't play for Shannon in their defeat by Terenure on Saturday, amid a degree of controversy (Shannon claiming the injury happened in the warm-up) but his twisted knee is not expected to rule him out of the Irish management's equation for Paris when the squad assembles in Wicklow today. A similar scenario applies to Keith Wood, who missed Garryowen's win over Buccaneers with a groin strain, essentially as a precautionary measure.
Kieron Dawson retired after 54 minutes of London Irish's 64-16 defeat to Bath at the Stoop on Saturday after sustaining a bruised hip, "but is not as bad as was initially feared and he should be okay," according to Lenihan. "It's a question of waiting and seeing when the squad gets together." The team will be picked on Wednesday.
France are also hit by injuries in the build-up to the game. The Stade Francais centre Thomas Lombard injured his left knee during his club's game against La Rochelle this weekend and is definitely out, while brilliant winger Christope Dominici is also considered doubtful after sustaining a knee injury in the same game.
Irish options on the wing in the likely event of Horgan being ruled out are somewhat limited, with Justin Bishop still at least two weeks away from a return to action, and the only obvious replacement would appear to be Kevin Maggs; perhaps necessitating a change of wings for Dennis Hickie from left to right. Maggs, playing at centre, scored a try in Bath's win, when he was watched by Eddie O'Sullivan. "I spoke to Eddie and he told me there were no problems with Kevin. He played very well and he'll be reporting tomorrow," said Lenihan. Another possible option might be James Topping, who marked his return to action with a try for Ballymena on Saturday.
As regards the Irish A side, Mick O'Driscoll has cried off the squad for the game in Clermont-Ferrand next Saturday, due to a knee injury picked up in Constitution's defeat to DLSP.
"There has been no replacement called up yet as we have to wait and see how all the injuries pan out," said Lenihan, though Mark Blair would seem an obvious candidate. A wait and see policy will be applied to Dion O'Cuinneagain, who may have further aggravated a groin strain in Ballymena's win over Young Munster.
Meanwhile the senior-vice President of the IRFU, Eddie Coleman, dismissed a media suggestion that Warren Gatland is to be offered a one-year extension to his contract next month as "pure speculation."
As regards the mooted Celtic League, which would involve the three Irish provinces save for Connacht, along with the Scottish super districts and seven Welsh clubs, Coleman commented: "a decision has been made and announcement will be made early in the week."
However, sources within the Union have intimated that the proposal was met with a relatively negative response at meetings of the IRFU committee on Thursday and Friday last, primarily because the season is already so congested and also because of fears for the domestic club game if the province's itineraries are extended further.