Billy Stickland/INPHO
Waiting Game

'Cian Healy does not look too good ….he was in a bit of pain coming off the field'

Cian Healy, James Hume and Jimmy O’Brien went off injured in today’s defeat to the New Zealand Maoris.

IT WAS NOT just the scoreline that was painful for Ireland in Hamilton this evening. Injuries are also piling up.

With Iain Henderson’s tour already over and Rob Herring ruled out of the first test on Saturday, a queue is forming for the physio room.

Cian Healy will be at the front of the line. The veteran loosehead picked up a lower limb injury this evening. His availability on the remainder of this tour is in doubt.

Jeremy Loughman, who passed his assessment for a head injury this evening, took a nasty knock in the first half, so regular tighthead Finlay Bealham rather than Loughman may be Andrew Porter’s back-up for Saturday’s test opener, Bealham last featuring for Ireland as a loosehead in November 2020. Georgia was the opposition that day. It didn’t go well for the Connacht-player.

Beyond this, Jimmy O’Brien and James Hume (groin) are also doubts for Saturday’s test. Mack Hansen, who would most likely have started in Eden Park, is unavailable because of Covid. So, both Jordan Larmour and Keith Earls are now contenders to start against this weekend, despite the fact they played 80 minutes tonight.

Speaking after tonight’s 32-17 defeat, Farrell said: “Cian Healy does not look too good ….he was in a bit of pain coming off the field. It has settled down a bit (the injury) so we will have to see with him.

“Jimmy (O’Brien) came off with a strain. He’s feeling pretty good in the changing rooms.

“A few lads were struggling with cramp at the end there, it was a tough old game.

“Jeremy (Loughman) actually passed his HIA with an independent doctor. We brought him off as a precaution. James has a bit of a groin injury that needs assessment tomorrow.”

Farrell, however, was giving little information away with regard to Saturday’s starting XV. “We have obviously got a plan for the Test but there is always going to be one or two moving parts in terms of injuries and substitutions. We’ll see how people wake up tomorrow.”

For those who played this evening, they will wake up with regret. This was a game Ireland was capable of winning but lost on the back of a disastrous second quarter when the Maori All Blacks scored 24 unanswered points.

andy-farrell-dejected-after-the-game Farrell looked dejected at full-time. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“We’re disappointed,” Farrell admitted. “The boys feel that they could have given a better account of themselves, certainly in the first half. The Maori team 100 per cent deserved to win that game.

“I thought the skillset was pretty good in that first half in those conditions so congratulations to them. But I’m proud of the boys, the way that they came back. It could have been a landslide, you know, with the way the score was at half time?

“You can weigh the game up, we had three or four, maybe more opportunities in that second half that we didn’t take.

“But it says just how gutsy a performance it was in that second half given where they were at half time, so I’m proud of the boys, the way that some of the individuals have stood up, have learnt, done some unbelievably good stuff and then some really poor stuff. They will have learned a lot from this evening.”

So will their coach not just in terms of which players can hack it at this level but also which players are not quite ready.

Publicly, however, Farrell was supportive of his squad: “Five of them played in the green shirt for the first time,” he said. “A good handful of them have not had too much experience.

“It’s a new team coming together in seven days and flying to the other side of the
world so you’d expect a few ups and downs. In all, I think it’s a good day for us with regard to lads learning lessons and knowing that if we fix a few things especially discipline-wise that we can give a better account of ourselves in the next game.”

The relevance to the bigger picture is obvious. For next year’s World Cup, Ireland need a squad rather than just a team. These Maori games essentially double up as auditions for the breakthrough boys who want to get on the big stage.

“It is well documented,” Farrell said, “that there are few opportunities to play international rugby, especially abroad given everything that has gone on in the last few years.

“You try and give lads a chance, especially before a World Cup. Time is running out as far as that is concerned, so we have to got to find out about people and give them an opportunity.”

With this in mind, Farrell namechecked a number of players, among them Gavin Coombes, Craig Casey and Ciaran Frawley, who he was happy with after tonight’s performance.

Coombes was ‘excellent’; Casey ‘really good’; Frawley ‘great and composed’. “Look at the experience that Joe McCarthy and Cian Prendergast had – it was priceless for us,” said Farrell. “Big Joe had some great carries. He gave away a few penalties but he will learn from that.

“Overall, I thought we played some really nice rugby at times, opened them up a little bit. It was just that last pass that we were a little bit too eager with but as far as decision-making is concerned, I thought Frawls conducted the team very well.”

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