Dave Kilcoyne the only missing man as Ireland head for Spain
James Cronin replaces injured team-mate with Joe Schmidt’s squad set to enjoy warm weather training
Dave Kilcoyne suffered a knee injury early in Munster’s 48-3 European Champions Cup win over Castres at Thomond Park on Sunday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The unfortunate Dave Kilcoyne was the only additional casualty among the 36 players named by Joe Schmidt for Ireland’s opening two Six Nations games away to France and at home to Italy. The beneficiary is Kilcoyne’s team-mate James Cronin, who thus travelled with the remainder of the squad to Olive Nova in southern Spain Monday morning for five days of warm weather training.
Kilcoyne suffered a knee injury early in Munster’s 48-3 European Champions Cup win over Castres at Thomond Park on Sunday, when he was replaced by Cronin, and has remained under the supervision of the Munster medical team.
With the in-form Kilcoyne and the Leinster pair of Jack McGrath and Cian Healy blocking his path, which has been compounded by his own injury woes, Cronin hasn’t featured in an Ireland squad since the 2016 Six Nations, and won the last of his three caps off the bench in the corresponding game away to France in round two.
It is the first time that Schmidt has taken the squad for a pre-Six Nations warm weather training camp in his tenure, and means they can train in pleasant conditions as opposed to the continuing inclement weather hereabouts.
Although Seán O’Brien and Garry Ringrose have recently joined an injury list also containing Jamie Heaslip, Rhys Ruddock, Tommy O’Donnell, Jared Payne, Luke Marshall, Finlay Bealham, Niall Scannell and Craig Gilroy, the Ireland squad remains in relatively good health.
They are also in relatively good form individually and collectively as well, with all bar the Ulster quartet of Rory Best, Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale and Rob Herring having helped their provinces secure European home quarter-finals two weeks after the conclusion of the Six Nations.
Even so, Best and Henderson have been performing manfully for an inconsistent Ulster side, and while Stockdale was forced off early in their defeat to Wasps, he did so merely with a dead leg.
The 10-strong Munster contingent, including Cronin, linked up with the remainder of the squad in Carton House on Sunday evening later than anticipated due to the three-hour delayed kick-off to the Castres’ match, but akin to the 18 Leinster players and Connacht quartet, would have done so buoyed by wins over the weekend and with a host of them in excellent form.
Alas for Ulster, their exit has coincided with Christian Leali’ifano’s return to the Brumbies having played his last match in a strikingly impressive loan spell on Sunday. Furthermore, the province on Monday confirmed that they would not now be signing New Zealand’s World Cup winning outhalf Stephen Donald in his stead.
The 34-year-old Donald had agreed a short-term deal to join the province, but he sustained an injury while representing his club in the final game of the Japanese season, which will rule him out for more than four weeks at least. An Ulster statement concluded: “The timeline now makes it very difficult to find a suitable replacement, but we will continue to monitor the market.”