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'CJ is a big boy' - Ireland hope to have Stander back before end of Six Nations

The number eight suffered a facial injury in the eighth minute against England.

IRELAND WILL HAVE to cope without first-choice number eight CJ Stander for the next two rounds of the Six Nations at least, although they insist they’re hopeful he will return before the end of the championship.

The IRFU’s official update says the Munster man will be sidelined for “up to four weeks” with a “facial injury,” believed to be fractures in his cheek and eye socket, which he suffered in Saturday’s defeat to England.

CJ Stander injured Stander played over 50 minutes with his injury. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A four-week recovery timeline would see Stander come back into contention for the clash with France on 10 March, as well as Ireland’s closing game versus Wales in Cardiff on 16 March.

Stander suffered the injury in a collision with England’s Tom Curry in the eighth minute of play but remained on the pitch until the 65th minute, when he left the pitch with a swollen face.

An IRFU spokesperson said Stander had not reported any potential injury to the medical staff until the 62nd minute, meaning they were not aware of the issue. 

Stander made 11 carries and 20 tackles against England, but will now miss out as Ireland attempt to bounce back against Scotland this weekend.

“CJ is a big boy now, he is well able,” said Ireland vice-captain Peter O’Mahony when asked if Stander is in pain.

“As you saw, it was a sore one but he will rest up now for a few weeks and hopefully we’ll have him back in a couple of weeks, depending on a couple of factors, I suppose. That’s the job we’re in, unfortunately.”

The loss of Stander could open the window of opportunity for Jack Conan at number eight, although Sean O’Brien is another strong option to come into the starting back row.

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O’Brien replaced Stander against the English, packing down at number eight in the scrum.

Ulster’s Jordi Murphy and Leinster’s Rhys Ruddock are the other back rows in Schmidt’s Six Nations squad, with Dan Leavy still recovering from a calf issue.

Conan, who has 10 Ireland caps to his name, is the most natural number eight but O’Brien’s international experience and leadership may be tempting for head coach Joe Schmidt.

“I’m not going to sit here and pick the team but Seanie O’Brien, the name alone speaks for itself,” said O’Mahony when asked if the Leinster man could make an impact if selected.

“A Lion, however many caps he has for Ireland [53], it’s plenty of caps.

“He’s been very important for us in the last few weeks, he’s been unlucky with injury here and there but there isn’t anybody more professional and a big-game player than Seanie O’Brien is.”

Ireland also have injury concerns over Devin Toner [ankle], Garry Ringrose [hamstring] and Keith Earls [hip] this week, while Andrew Conway has returned to Munster to rehab a calf injury he sustained in training at Carton House last Thursday.

The IRFU say Schmidt has not added any new players to his squad.

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