12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Ireland had something of a mixed reaction to their performance against Romania last week. Most of the Irish press agreed with Eddie O'Sullivan that Romania were very tough opposition and Ireland did a professional job. However most of the foreign media saw the match as Ireland struggling to overcome substandard opposition because of ring-rustiness. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Ireland's performance was far from perfect. There were problems at the breakdown in securing ball and the defence seemed vulnerable to grubber kicks into the corners.
That said, it was a very good performance from Romania, their most complete in years. Their big pack was really impressive and they tore into Ireland with abandon. With a couple of better quality backs and a decent kicker they could really challenge teams. We'll know more about them when they play Australia on Saturday. They won't win but the Aussies will definitely know they've been in a game afterwards.
It is noticeable that Eddie Jones has stuck to his first choice team against them.
Ireland now face Namibia on Sunday and O'Sullivan will be looking for his team to secure a lot more possession than on Saturday. Namibia lost 67-14 to the Argentinian second choice team in their first game. They have some decent players in their side but it would be a huge surprise if they caused Ireland the same problems as Romania. Argentina targeted them up front and made their power in the scrum tell with a couple of penalty tries. They have some lively backs in scrum-half Hakkies Husselman and centre Du Preez Grobler and Cardiff lock Heino Senekal is a decent line-out jumper. They do lack power in the forwards though and Ireland will look to wear them down before striking with the backs.
There has been four change to Ireland team, which was more than expected. John Hayes returns at tight-head, (Reggie Corrigan, selected at loose, misses out through in injury and Marcus Horan is moved back in. The difference Hayes made in the scrum last week was immediate and it is obviously vital to get the set-piece right ahead of the Argentinian game. He has completely rotated the back row with Simon Easterby and Alan Quinlancoming in on the flanks and Eric Miller at number eight.
All three players are so versatile you really need to double-check to make sure who's playing where. All three will be looking to stake their claims, at the very least for the replacement spot on the bench. But they must combine as a back-row first and foremost particularly in securing ruck ball.
With Gary Longwell injured, the locks remain the same. The lineout was near perfect in very tough conditions last week and he will hope to see this continue, particularly in light of Argentina's problems in that area against Australia.
In the backs the only change is Ronan O'Gara coming in for David Humphreys. Humphreys played well again last week and he's probably done enough to start against Argentina but O'Gara will try to make a good argument for change. He looked sharp when he came on last week and Irish fans will be hoping to see him get the ball to Denis Hickie even more in this game. Hickie is in the form of his life (seven tries in three games) and the way he took his second try in particular shows his confidence is soaring at the moment. It'll be good to see fellow wing Shane Horgan get another good solid run-out as well. Last week he looked hungry for work throughout and was rewarded with yet another try.
It's a slight worry that Brian O'Driscoll hasn't score a try for Ireland since the Italian match in the six nations. However Sunday's match should be a good opportunity to put that right.
Namibia showed themselves to be a game bunch against Argentina. Though physically outclassed, they stuck at their task and ran every bit of possession back at the Argentinians. Ireland traditionally don't like sides that run the ball from everywhere so the defensive Mike Ford will be drilling in the importance of keeping their concentration. In fact, concentration will be the keyword for O'Sullivan in the run up to the match. Ireland shouldn't have to struggle too hard to get a win and a bonus point but the quality of the performance will be judged much harder this week.