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Schmidt looks to other options at 13 with Henshaw sidelined through injury

The Connacht man suffered knee cartilage damage in the closing minutes of Saturday’s defeat.

IRELAND ARE SET to be without the​ services of Robbie Henshaw for the third Test against South Africa after the Leinster-bound centre suffered knee cartilage ​damage in the dying minutes of Saturday’s defeat in Johannesburg.

The injury leaves head coach Joe Schmidt with an important selection decision to make in midfield for the decisive clash against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth.

Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw goes off injured Henshaw was hurt late on in Johannesburg. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Schmidt admitted that calling up an injury replacement to join his squad in South Africa would be unlikely at this stage​ with ​Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding and Jared Payne in line to fill the two midfield spots.

“To be honest, if we can cover it internally we probably will at this stage,” said Schmidt on Saturday after Ireland’s 32-26 defeat.

“It’s pretty difficult to get them up to speed and to get them down here is a bit of a mission even. They wouldn’t be able to get down probably until the Monday or Tuesday morning depending on flights and then that’s pretty late in the piece to suddenly launch yourself into a Test team.”

Instead, Schmidt will look to his current midfielders to cover Henshaw’s absence.

Many Ireland supporters would be disappointed to see Payne returning to the 13 slot after his impact as a fullback on this tour, but Schmidt suggested that Ulsterman Marshall is a strong contender to move to outside centre after impressing in the 12 shirt in the first Test.

“There are options with Luke Marshall still being in the squad. That was Luke’s first full Test for us last week for a long time [in Cape Town] and I thought he did a super job,” said Schmidt.

“He’s played a fair bit at 13 this year so he would be one option, as would Jared Payne. He could slip back up into the 13 spot and Tiernan O’Halloran could go into the number 15 spot.”

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