Reduced 17-man Ireland squad prepare in Belfast for Wales encounter

Luke Marshall and Roger Wilson cited after Ulster’s defeat of Scarlets on Friday

Iain Henderson: returned to the Ireland squad as a replacement against England following his recuperation from a hip injury. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Iain Henderson: returned to the Ireland squad as a replacement against England following his recuperation from a hip injury. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

The good word of Joe spreads to Belfast today as a reduced 17-man Ireland squad conduct an open training session, ably assisted by the Ulster Academy, at Ravenhill.

It being a regular Pro12 week, there has been no additions to the match-day 23 that beat England 19-9 last Sunday. Three players – Jonathan Sexton (hamstring) along with Seán O’Brien and Jared Payne (both concussion) – have been stood down with another three released to their province.

As Sexton already indicated, he will not play for Racing Metro 92 against Grenoble this weekend and has returned to Ireland camp for further medical treatment.

O’Brien and Payne are currently undergoing the six-day return to play protocols. The squad break up today before returning to Carton House on Sunday evening.

Felix Jones has already trained with Munster while Tommy O’Donnell did not, but it remains unclear which Ireland replacements will get game time during the trip to Wales.

One imagines, following injury lay offs, that Eoin Reddan Cian Healy and Marty Moore may need more minutes with Leinster in Llanelli. Ian Madigan, too, needs further exposure at outhalf having been largely used at inside centre by Matt O’Connor.

Iain Henderson is another player without much mileage this season, due to a hip problem, but the 23-year-old hardly looked rusty when coming off the bench against England. That Ulster face the Dragons in Newport on Sunday may prompt the Ireland coaches to keep him wrapped up ahead of the Cardiff showdown.

Impressive performance

Second Captains

Tuohy, who started against Scotland last year and came off the bench against Wales, was coming back into Ireland consideration after an impressive performance against Leinster on January 3rd

“Then we played Treviso away and my injury, a torn ligament in my thumb, got so bad I had to have surgery,” said the 29-year-old. “I spent six weeks out until returning last week. It’s been an indifferent season for me, breaking my arm in round three and missing out on November internationals and then doing my thumb.”

“Hendi had six or seven months out with his hip but came back fit at just the right time.”

“When you have the athletic attributes that Iain has people are right to be excited about him. He is a cracking player and is only going to get better.

“I have to keep him out of the secondrow, keep him at six, if I want to get back into the Ireland team. But it’s good having him around, it drives me on and I hope I drive him on.”

Ulster have further problems as Luke Marshall and Roger Wilson both travel to Edinburgh for disciplinary hearings following citations for kicking (Marshall) and striking/punching (Wilson) during victory over the Scarlets last Friday.

They will be joined by Leinster centre Ben Te’o who has also been cited under law 10.2 (a), which states “a player must not strike an opponent with the fist or arm.”

Te’o’s alleged act of foul play may have happened during Leinster’s 9-9 draw away to the Ospreys.

Finally, BJ Botha has indicated his desire to remain at Munster for another season. Botha, 35, is seeking an extension to the current four year deal that ends this summer.

“That’s not my decision really,” said Botha. “I think we just want to concentrate on what’s on the field at this stage and then we’ll see.

“I’m at a stage in my career now where I still want to play a few years but I’m not in the younger years any more.

“I’ve been here going on my fourth year now so very happy here, settled as a family which is the most important thing and then obviously the rugby part is great. They’re a great bunch of guys to play with. Obviously the performances are coming together slowly.”

Capped 25 times by South Africa, Botha was a member of the winning 2007 World Cup squad before spending three seasons as Ulster’s tighthead prop. “I’m in a different position to the other players I think a lot of the other guys they are signing up are younger basically guys they want to sign up for a good two or three years.”

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