O’Connell, O’Brien among eight ruled out of Ireland training

Concerns expressed by Irish management over Johnny Sexton’s workload in France

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray arrive for Ireland training at Carton House.  Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray arrive for Ireland training at Carton House. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 


The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry, as they say. Ideally Joe Schmidt would probably have liked to announce his captain this week but as a worrisome casualty list for the first day of this week’s get-together prior to the upcoming Guinness Series also includes Paul O’Connell, the Ireland coach may have to shelve those plans.

O’Connell was one of eight players ruled out of training yesterday, and amongst four or five players who will not train at all this week before being re-assessed when the squad returns to camp on Sunday in readiness for the Samoa game on Saturday week.

He pulled out of Munster’s win over Glasgow on Friday night with a grade one calf strain, and compounding this, by his own Superman-like standards, O’Connell hasn’t been tearing up trees in his three starts for Munster this season.

“The fact that Paul won’t train at all this week is a concern,” team manager Mick Kearney said yesterday. “We’re still very hopeful that he will be available for selection for the Samoa game . . . We should know an awful lot better by next Sunday.”

O’Connell’s injury profile, after missing all of Ireland’s games last season, also contrasts sharply with Jamie Heaslip’s remarkable durability and consistency, and, although O’Connell remains the favourite to be captain, it may make retaining Heaslip a more attractive proposition.

Reverting to Brian O’Driscoll, even though his return to training yesterday was about the only good news in the medical bulletin, is unlikely given he has played only one game this season and his stated intention is to play for only one more year. Loading Peter O’Mahony with the Irish captaincy at 24 on top of the Munster captaincy would surely be a case of overload.


Sidelined
As with O’Connell, Keith Earls (patella tendonitis) and Cian Healy (knee cartilage) are sidelined again this week and will be re-assessed when they come back into camp next Sunday. Seán O’Brien (ankle soreness and inflammation) won’t train until Thursday.

Robbie Henshaw (hip flexor strain) will be re-assessed pending the outcome of a scan yesterday, as will Declan Fitzpatrick (calf strain). Mike Ross (hamstring) ought to resume training today, while despite rolling his ankle in Ulster’s win over Cardiff, Rory Best was expected to train yesterday afternoon.

The squad will have an open session in the Aviva Stadium from 11.30am to 12.30 today, and will train again on Thursday and Friday before some players will be released back to their provinces. Andrew Trimble, Donncha O’Callaghan, Martin Moore and Roger Wilson were all called into the squad for training yesterday.


Disciplinary hearing
There is also concern about Conor Murray’s disciplinary hearing in Cardiff tomorrow after being cited for allegedly elbowing Glasgow scrumhalf Niko Matawalu, who will also be in Cardiff after being cited for allegedly biting O’Callaghan. The citing against Murray was not the incident which Glasgow publicly brought to the attention of the match citing commissioner Rob Flockhart, but rather a separate one.

Even were Murray banned for two weeks, that would culminate on the night before the Samoa game. Of some relief for Irish management is that Jack McGrath escaped a citing for appeared to lead with his elbow onto a prostrate Kieran Marmion in the Connacht game.

Curtailed off-season
Another source of concern is Johnny Sexton, Racing’s win over Stade Francais on Saturday night constituted his 13th game of the season. Following on from a curtailed three week off-season and virtually non-existent pre-season, he has started all but two of those 13 games, whereas before last season’s November Tests he had played six games for Leinster.

“It certainly isn’t ideal,” said Kearney. “He has lost a couple of kilos. In fairness, he is as enthusiastic as he always is.”

Sexton had clauses in his contract ensuring his release for Irish training camps, and hasn’t missed a minute of one yet.

Given Benjamin Dambielle and Jonathan Wisniewski are in line to return from injuries, Sexton may well not be involved in their Top 14 game away to Biarritz on Saturday, although Racing intend calling him home on Wednesday and it therefore seems unlikely Sexton will be available to train with the Irish squad on Thursday and Friday.

“That is something we have to wait and see,” said Kearney. “Our very strong preference would be that he stays with the squad right through Thursday and Friday. It is one of the real challenges and difficulties when players actually go abroad. We don’t have full access to them the week before the prep-week.

“Racing would be fully entitled to fly him back on Wednesday and play him for 80 minutes if that is what they want to do on Saturday . . . He has a massive number of minutes under his belt and, in our view, would be in need of a bit of a break.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.