With a lengthening injury list the Ireland team announcement for the final RBS 6 Nations match against Italy has been moved from Tuesday to Thursday, but backs Jonathan Sexton and Craig Gilroy should be available for selection for the Rome clash.
Last Saturday’s 13-13 draw with France was another attritional outing for the Ireland squad, with a number of players picking up injuries.
The main casualty was Eoin Reddan who, having come off the bench to win his 50th Ireland cap, unfortunately suffered a broken leg during the closing stages of the game.
Commenting on Reddan’s injury, Ireland team manager Michael Kearney said: “Eoin suffered a fractured fibula and ligament damage to his ankle. He will have to have both repaired and he will undergo surgery today with an estimated recovery period of 12 to 16 weeks.”
Reddan’s provincial colleague Fergus McFadden, who featured on the right wing against France, suffered a fractured rib and is facing a three to six week lay-off.
Another Leinster man, Brian O’Driscoll, was in the wars as Kearney explained: “Brian is being treated as a concussion. He also suffered an ear laceration which required eight stitches and also a dead leg.
“He recovered well after the game and will be monitored under the IRB return to play protocols this week. It is too early to say whether will be available this weekend.
“Luke Marshall suffered a concussion. He was well after the game and like Brian will follow the same protocols this week. It is too early to say whether he will be available for the match at the weekend or not.
“Donnacha Ryan suffered a further bang to his AC joint in the second half and was replaced. He will partake in modified training and his progress will be monitored for the week. Conor Murray’s knee settled very well and he’ll train fully this week.”
But on a positive note, Jonathan Sexton completed ‘a full week of return to play last week’. He missed the Scotland and France matches due to the hamstring strain he picked up during last month’s defeat to England.
The out-half is now ‘fully fit to train and will be available for selection this weekend’. Assistant coach Les Kiss said Sexton is ‘a good bet’ to play against the Italians, but he had words of praise for Sexton’s young deputies Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan.
“Paddy, we’ve been very happy with how he’s played the last two games and handled a lot thrown at him. He’s done exceptionally well,” insisted Kiss.
“Mads (Ian Madigan)…who would have thought he’d debut playing at 12 and at nine? He’s been great at training as well.
“Johnny’s got to prove his fitness yet, but everything is on track for him to be right for the game, so someone has got to miss out.”
Craig Gilroy missed the France game with a groin injury but according to Kearney, the Ulster winger ‘continues to make good progress and we expect him to be available for selection’.
Asked about how the camp have coped with the succession of injuries before and during the Championship, the Irish manager explained: “The injury thing has been absolutely extraordinary. I was only thinking yesterday, it reminded me a little of Charles Haughey’s famous quote, ‘Grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented’. It’s been a bit like that for the last number of weeks.
“I don’t think there is an underlying issue, it’s just been very unfortunate. The majority of the injuries have just been soft tissue which can happen.
“There’s no actual trend to it that you could look and say we’re doing something wrong,” he added.
Encouraged by the way the players in the extended squad have stepped up, Kiss remarked: “When you go through the list, it’s amazing what is available. I’m excited about what kind of potential sits around at that next level. Obviously, there’s some experience they have to get, but that’s what the deal is.
“Looking back, you see areas where they need to learn, but you also see what they bring. There is something very exciting about each group that has come in and filled the breach.”
Nine players have been added to the Ireland training panel ahead of the Italy match, including the uncapped Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, Tommy O’Donnell and Robbie Henshaw.
IRELAND SQUAD ADDITIONS (v Italy, 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship):
Club/Province/International Caps –
Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster/3)
Robbie Diack (Malone/Ulster) *
Declan Fitzpatrick (Dungannon/Ulster/4)
Craig Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster/4)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht) *
Paul Marshall (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) *
Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) *
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster/49)
Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster/4)
* Denotes uncapped player