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Carbery 'fit as a fiddle' for Six Nations with Henderson the only injury doubt

Jack Carty will be pushing for Carbery’s spot in Ireland’s matchday squad.

Carbery featured three times for Ireland last autumn.
Carbery featured three times for Ireland last autumn.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND HEAD COACH Andy Farrell expects all of his squad bar second row Iain Henderson to be training fully by the end of this week.

The news comes as a big boost for Ireland ahead of their opener against Wales on Saturday 5 February, particularly given that the likes of Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Josh van der Flier, and Joey Carbery have recently been injury doubts.

Ulster second row Henderson hasn’t played since 17 December due to an ankle injury, having only returned from a hamstring issue for that clash with Northampton.

But Ireland remain hopeful that Henderson, who started the November Test wins against New Zealand and Argentina, could be fit in time for the Wales clash.

“To sum it up, we expect everyone bar Iain Henderson to be training fully with us by the end of the week,” said Ireland boss Farrell at today’s Six Nations launch.

“Iain Henderson, that’s not to say he’s out of the Wales game yet, we’ll take it day-by-day and see how we go.”

Leinster lock Ryan’s return to fitness after a recent hamstring injury is very positive for Farrell, particularly if Henderson doesn’t recover, while Munster’s Tadhg Beirne has been in brilliant form and his squad also includes Leinster’s Ryan Baird and Ulster’s Kieran Treadwell.

Tighthead prop Furlong is set to return to full training after suffering a calf injury two weekends ago in Leinster’s clash with Montpellier, while van der Flier sustained a groin issue in last Saturday’s win over Bath.

There was some surprise when Munster out-half Carbery was named in Ireland’s Six Nations squad after he suffered a fractured elbow during a Champions Cup clash with Wasps in December.

It had initially appeared that Carbery could miss the start of the championship, but Farrell has now reported that the 26-year-old is fully fit.

“Joey has been keeping fighting fit from week two after his injury to his elbow, so he’s fit as a fiddle,” said Farrell.

“He has been doing all the ball skills, etc., constantly and the only thing he has had to wait is to get the all-clear to get back into contact and he’s had that now so it’s all systems go.”

jack-carty Jack Carty has been playing excellent rugby for Connacht. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

While captain Johnny Sexton will be in Ireland’s number 10 shirt for their opener against Wales, Carbery will be hopeful of retaining his place in their matchday 23 after featuring in all three November Tests – coming off the bench twice and starting against Argentina.

However, Connacht’s Jack Carty has returned to the wider Ireland squad after a lengthy absence from Test rugby and his form has been superb this season, meaning Farrell will have a big decision to make on his back-up out-half.

“He’s done very well, certainly this season,” said Farrell of Carty. “Obviously Connacht are playing really well as a team. I think what’s helped Jack along the way as well is the captaincy, the ownership of the captaincy has been new to him and I think some people sink or swim with that responsibility.

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“It has certainly helped Jack as far as his leadership of the team is concerned. And the way that they want to play, I have been super impressed always by his game understanding, etc.

“But there are other parts of his game that have really come on – his attacking game and his ability to play at the line and play square and be more connected has been very impressive.”

Farrell will also have a big call to make in his back three with James Lowe, one of the most impressive performers last November, having been ruled out of involvement in the Six Nations squad due to a hamstring injury.

“We’ll see what his fitness is like when he comes back,” said Farrell when asked if Lowe could return later in the championship.

“We’re expecting it to be a few weeks, we don’t know how many just as yet. I suppose with every hamstring it takes its own course.

“James, to be fair, is absolutely gutted. He will be doing everything he can to get as fit as he possibly can as soon as he can and we’ll assess it from there.”

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Murray Kinsella

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