Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson fit for Scotland
Lions duo likely to return to starting XV for penultimate leg of Ireland’s Grand Slam bid
Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong arrives for training at Carton House on Tuesday. Photograph: Inpho
“Everyone was good today. Everyone came through,” said assistant coach Simon Easterby at the Irish team base in Kildare.
Easterby said that Irish outhalf Johnny Sexton also has a clean bill of health for a match Ireland hope can set up a Grand Slam finale against England at Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day.
“Iain and Johnny Sexton trained, yeah,” added Easterby.
“I think any side would be happy to have them come back into selection. They are quality players who have proved that over the last couple of seasons but certainly in the summer with the Lions, some first class performances,” said Easterby.
“It creates massive competition within the group. We feel at the moment we are building real quality depth. The guys who do not make the 23 at the weekend will feel they can come in and not drop the standard. There’s a real buzz and expectation for those who will come in.”
Furlong and Henderson injured hamstrings and were not available for Ireland’s last match against Wales. Once fit they are first choice picks despite impressive performances from James Ryan, Devin Toner and prop Andrew Porter.
Henderson should move directly into the secondrow. Similarly Furlong will move into the tighthead side of the scrum, although Porter showed he was well capable of stepping up a level against Italy and Wales.
“James (Ryan) hasn’t had much senior rugby. The fact he has been able to transfer his performance with the Irish Under-20s to Leinster and with us, that is a mark of a very good young player. He’s tough. He’s raised the standard in certain areas,” said Easterby.
It causes a selection headache but as every Irish coach says, it is a place they want to be and to date it has served Ireland well.
But Easterby cautions against any complacency facing a revived Scottish side that has also being working on the depth in their squad since before former Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend took over from Vern Cotter.
“The performance against England didn’t surprise us at all,” said Easterby.
“Yeah I don’t think we are taking too much into that Welsh performance ( Scotland). They have a couple of different personnel in there as well. I think they are in a really good place.
“They are starting to create depth in their group and it has shown in their performances not just since Greg came in but before that with Vern Cotter. They are getting a bit of a return on that bit of investment they have done over the past few seasons.”
Refusing to look beyond this weekend towards a possible final game for a Grand Slam against England, Easterby does acknowledge that there is an extra pep in the step of the players and it’s not all down to being kept largely in doors over that last week.
“I think the reality now with the Scots coming to town with their first class performance against England it has sparked everyone up,” he said.
“The down week was a good week for us to rest a few bodies, get a bit of training in and the intensity has risen this week with what is coming up at the weekend.”