Tadhg Furlong the main Irish concern for Scotland clash
Ireland prop and his fellow Lion Iain Henderson need to train by Tuesday
Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong during a recent Ireland training session at Carton House, Co Kildare. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
Tadhg Furlong remains the most serious injury concern ahead of Ireland’s penultimate Six Nations game against Scotland in Dublin next Saturday.
With a third Six Nations title in five seasons almost within touching distance before a possible tilt at a Grand Slam in Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is keen to get his two Lions forwards on the field this Saturday at the Aviva stadium (kick-off 2.15pm).
Hamstrung duo Iain Henderson and Tadhg Furlong will need to train in Carton House on Tuesday to have any chance of returning from four-week layoffs.
Furlong pulled up after three minutes in the 56-19 victory over Italy on February 10th. Recovery from a grade-one hamstring tear requires anything up to three weeks with a grade-two tear needing two to eight weeks of rehab.
Ready to train
If Furlong and Henderson, forced off at half-time against Italy, are to make the team they must be ready to train on Tuesday. “Our plan is that they train fully next week,” said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt last week. “What pulling them out [of the 37-27 victory over Wales] meant for us, particularly Iain, who was very close to being available and could have played, is we decided to take our time a little bit with that recovery process so that, with that extra week, we’d have them training fully on the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of next week.
“Maybe we manage them a bit on the Monday,” Schmidt added.
If Furlong fails to make it, 22-year-old Andrew Porter will start only his sixth game, and third test, as a tighthead prop against Scotland, with Munster’s John Ryan in reserve.
“The thing with Ports is he’s so strong that no one is going to outmuscle him,” Mike Ross, the 61-cap Ireland veteran, told the Sunday Times. “Once he’s set nice and low, you’d need dynamite to shift him.”
Ultan Dillane, who featured in Connacht’s 26-25 defeat to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, and Quinn Roux, who was not released by Ireland, are the second-row cover for James Ryan and Devin Toner should Henderson fail to regain fitness. Roux came off the bench against Wales.
Robbie Henshaw’s shoulder surgery and the season-ending knee injury Chris Farrell suffered at last week’s opening training session means Garry Ringrose is set to regain the 13 jersey for his 12th cap.
Ringrose has needed three surgeries – on both shoulders and ankle – since his last cap against Japan in June 2017. The 23-year-old was actively searching for peak form when caught under a tackled Ulster player in January, so his only game-time since was 54 minutes against the Southern Kings on February 23rd.
“He will certainly be in the squad,” Schmidt confirmed last week. “I thought he was really sharp in training and he was good against the Kings, so he’s hit the ground running. He’s a smart player as well as a really good athlete.”
The other selection decision for Schmidt is the reserve outside back, with incumbent Fergus McFadden under pressure from Jordan Larmour.
If England lose in Paris (kick-off 4.45pm) after Ireland beat Scotland, then Schmidt’s side will secure the title before hunting a third ever Grand Slam seven days later.
Meanwhile, Ulster are actively seeking a new head coach, and possibly a director of rugby, following Friday’s announcement that Jono Gibbes is to follow Les Kiss out of Belfast this summer. The former All Black is returning home to Waikato.
“Being a long way from home for the last 10 years has made me prioritise things above my career and so I’ll be returning at the end of this season for family reasons,” said the 41-year-old.
The future of backs coach Dwanye Peel, who only arrived this season along with Gibbes, and scrum coach Aaron Dundon remains unclear, but both have a year to run on their contracts, as did Gibbes.