IRELAND LOOK SET to go into this weekend’s Six Nations decider with France with the cleanest bill of health in recent years.
Barring long-term injury victims Sean O’Brien, Keith Earls and Stephen Ferris, Ireland are in rude health ahead of Saturday evening’s encounter at Stade de France. Conor Murray has overcome his stomach bug to feature in training runs while there has been positive news about two key members of the Irish pack.
Peter O’Mahony’s hamstring strain cleared sufficiently for the Munster flanker to take a full part in this morning’s training run at Carton House. While Monday’s training session was tailored for O’Mahony to get back up to speed with his match-fit teammates, he took contact and ran every drill the Irish coaching staff set for him.
Cian Healy was Ireland’s biggest injury doubt following last Saturday’s win over Italy. The Leinster prop hobbled off the Aviva Stadium pitch immediately after barrelling over for his 52nd minute try. He was placed in a protective boot following the game but his ankle showed no ill-effects in training. He also took a full part in this morning’s session.
Ireland were bolstered by the addition of fringe players to the squad this afternoon as Joe Schmidt put his team through their paces. Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo and Ian Madigan put on their French hats and ran in opposition to the settled Irish backline. Ulster flanker Robbie Diack and Leinster’s Rhys Ruddock gave the likes of O’Mahony and Chris Henry a test at rucking drills. Up front, Schmidt welcomed Richardt Strauss, David Kilcoyne and Rodney Ah You along to give his first choice front row a going over.
Another player who was hard at work in training today was fullback Rob Kearney, who, according to defence coach Les Kiss, was unhappy with his role in the Leonardo Sarto try at the weekend.
Kiss said, “[That try] was one of those unfortunate ones. We put the defensive pressure on and forced the error. A kick with the boot if we got it, and us going up-field, would have been a different result. We knew Sarto would be dangerous. He has a long stride; he’s very quick. He just had a slight change-up that caught Rob a little bit. Rob did about 10 to 12 tackles today in training, just working on that area. He was very disappointed he missed it.
“Dave Kearney’s cover line could have been better as well but the two boys put their hands up straight away. They realised they could have been better in that second and third line of defence.”