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'A small degree of doubt' over Heaslip, but Murray ready to play in Six Nations opener

There was also good news about Dave Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald today.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated 14.20

IRELAND SCRUM-HALF Conor Murray is expected to be fit for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Italy on Saturday.

The Munster playmaker has missed almost a month of rugby after injuring his neck while scoring a try away to Zebre.

After seeing a specialist last week, Murray took part in Friday’s open training session in the Aviva Stadium, including some contact in drills not intended to let the number nine slip into the firing line.

Despite the injury list growing after Friday’s Wolfhounds defeat, there was further good news from Ireland team manager Mick Kearney on the fitness of Luke Fitzgerald and Dave Kearney – both of whom are vying for a place in Joe Schmidt’s back-line on Saturday.

Fitzgerald missed out on Friday’s ‘A’ fixture due to a bout of vomiting on Thursday, but along with Kearney, is expected to train fully this week and be in contention for the curtain-raiser.

While the prognosis so far has been positive for Mike McCarthy’s progress through concussion protocols, there is less certainty around Jamie Heaslip.

The number eight has been managing a shoulder injury since Leinster’s win over Ulster last month and, though he was held back from full contact training last week it was assumed he would be right for Saturday.

“There is some small doubt about [Heaslip], Kearney said in Carton House.

He has rehabbed really well and Jamie being the professional athlete that he is, he really does look after his body really well and worked on it over the weekend. So the next day or two will tell a lot. It would be a small degree of doubt.”

Eoin Reddan and Cian Healy should join the squad in full training this week. Italy is likely to come too late for the powerful prop, but Kearney, speaking on behalf of the coaching staff, is hopeful that Healy may be fit to face France on February 14.

“Depending on how he goes this week. He is doing a test at the moment and if he comes through that test he will be allowed train fully for the rest of the week. If that happens, given the athlete that he is, I would expect he would be in consideration for the French game.”

- Originally published 13.25

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