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'We're fortunate to have quality in that position' - Ireland confident in midfield options

Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, and Chris Farrell are in contention for the Scotland game.

ROBBIE HENSHAW UNDERWENT a scan on his hamstring injury in Japan this afternoon [6am Irish time] but Ireland won’t be delivering any update on his fitness until tomorrow.

Their next press conference takes place tomorrow afternoon [around 7am Irish time] at the team hotel in Chiba, meaning Irish supporters will have to wait overnight to get official confirmation of the extent of Henshaw’s injury.

A player going for a scan is never a good thing, that much we know, and the early indications appear to be that Henshaw could be ruled out for several weeks.

robbie-henshaw-and-bundee-aki Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki during the warm-up for Ireland's training session yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

By now, Joe Schmidt knows the hand he’s been dealt and the hope is just that Henshaw’s 2019 World Cup is not over before it even gets going.

While stating today that he was “hopeful” about Henshaw’s chances of featuring in this World Cup, Schmidt did admit that the Leinster midfielder is not likely to be involved in Ireland’s Pool A opener against Scotland on Sunday. 

That leaves Schmidt with Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell to choose from in midfield for the crucial clash in Yokohama – enviable options even after injury to a man who had looked so good against Wales last weekend in Ireland’s final warm-up game.

So while there is natural dejection on behalf of Henshaw, Ireland believe they have the depth to compensate.

“It’s disappointing, but these things happen,” said Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby today before Henshaw had gone for his scan.

“The unfortunate part about any sporting environment is that players pick up little bumps and niggles. You just have to manage those situations as best you can.

“We’re very fortunate to have quality in that position that we can cover that and cover any eventuality that might arise after the scan.”

Easterby said that Henshaw was in “positive” form earlier today.

“It’s obviously not a nice place to be, wondering the extent of the injury and that hanging over you. We’re just hoping that he gets through the next 24 hours and he can stay with us.”

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garry-ringrose-and-conor-murray Garry Ringrose is among Ireland's strong options in midfield. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Will Addison, who was pulled from Ulster’s friendly win over Glasgow on Saturday on a “precautionary” basis, according to Schmidt, is the man next in line should Ireland have received bad news from Henshaw’s scan. 

The Ireland head coach also said that he had not made any decision on his starting centre pairing for the clash with Scotland, though many had predicted that he would opt for an Aki and Henshaw combination.

Ringrose, though, has been a key player for Ireland in recent seasons and Schmidt is a big fan of the Leinster player’s intelligence, work-rate and footwork.

Aki and Ringrose have combined very well under Schmidt on a number of occasions, although Ireland have used Aki-Farrell and Farrell-Ringrose pairings in the recent past too. 

With Scotland expected to field a midfield pair of Sam Johnson and Duncan Taylor outside playmaker Finn Russell this weekend, it will be intriguing to see how Schmidt selects.

Indeed, there are big decisions aplenty for the Ireland head coach, with a competitive back row roster, different strengths to weigh up among his lock options, and the possibility that Keith Earls won’t recover to feature on the right wing.

While Joey Carbery will train fully with the Ireland squad tomorrow, Earls won’t do so until “Wednesday or Friday,” according to Schmidt, who said the Munster man will “be close” to being involved against the Scots.

chris-farrell-akes-a-picture-with-fans-before-the-opening-ceremony Chris Farrell can play at 12 or 13. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

As Easterby pointed out, bumps and niggles are part and parcel of the game but Schmidt would have dearly loved to come into Ireland’s first fixture in Japan without any major injury worries.

Henshaw’s hamstring injury at training in Chiba yesterday put an end to that wish, however, and now Ireland supporters wait to hear the official word on the extent of that issue for the Athlone man.

Even without Henshaw this weekend against Scotland, Ireland will have strength and guile in midfield.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Chiba

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