Ian Madigan called up as Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney ruled out

Joe Schmidt now has four uncapped players as squad for South Africa hit by injuries

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: “From the coaches’ perspective, we’re incredibly excited about the opportunity this gives us.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: “From the coaches’ perspective, we’re incredibly excited about the opportunity this gives us.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made four changes to the squad for the three-Test series in South Africa after injuries ruled out Jonathan Sexton (shoulder surgery), Rob Kearney (hamstring strain), Dave Kearney (calf tear) and, as already documented, Luke Fitzgerald (medial knee ligaments).

The Bordeaux Bègle-bound Ian Madigan will replace Sexton, Connacht fullback Tiernan O’Halloran (25) is in for Rob Kearney, Ulster wing Craig Gilroy (25) is drafted in place of Dave Kearney while Connacht wing Matt Healy (27) is called in for Fitzgerald.

The Irish squad now contains four uncapped players in Healy, O’Halloran, South African born secondrow Quinn Roux and Ulster backrow Sean Reidy, who originally hails from New Zealand. 

Three players, Sexton, Fitzgerald and Dave Kearney suffered injuries while playing for Leinster in the Guinness Pro12 final defeat to Connacht, while the fourth, Rob Kearney, strained a hamstring during an Ireland training sessions during the week.

Challenge

Simon ZeboTommy BoweCian HealyDan Tuohy

Sexton also sustained the injury during the Guinness Pro12 final, damaging the joint in the 28th minute of the match when he was tackled by Connacht hooker Tom McCartney and came down on the point of his right shoulder.

He then shipped a big hit from Bundee Aki a couple of minutes after receiving treatment for the initial problem.

“Jonathan saw a specialist on Monday evening at 7pm and it was decided that the best course of action was to get surgery,” Schmidt said.

“I don’t know too much about the details other than to say there was a feeling that it could be managed conservatively, either for him to continue playing or for him to return but after seeing the specialist, it was felt that surgery was the most appropriate action.”

Sexton underwent an operation to his damaged shoulder joint on Tuesday. Schmidt suggested that the rehabilitation period following the surgery was about three months.

Superb form

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His decision to go to France coupled with Paddy Jackson’s superb form for Ulster saw the latter selected ahead of him in the original touring squad.

Gilroy won the last of his six caps – he has scored two tries for his country – in the 2014 November Test against Georgia at the Aviva Stadium.

The Irish coach clarified the events leading up to the injury to Rob Kearney, following suggestions that it was a legacy of contact work during an Ireland training session.

“Contrary to what was written there wasn’t a lot of contact [in training during the week],” Schmidt said.

“Rob Kearney was running in free space when he strained his hamstring. Rob was looking incredibly sharp and it is disappointing for him but it is a fantastic opportunity for some of those young players who come in and put their best foot forward.” 

While acknowledging the calibre of the injured players, Schmidt was upbeat about the chance of working with the uncapped Healy and O’Halloran, both of whom have been outstanding this season.

“From the coaches’ perspective, we’re incredibly excited about the opportunity this gives us,” he said. “If there are guys missing, I’m going to know more about Tiernan O’Halloran, more about Matt Healy, in a week-to-week environment. I’ve been down to Connacht. I’ve seen them train. I’ve certainly seen them play a lot of times.”

The Ireland squad will leave for South Africa on Sunday.

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