Mack Hansen watched training today. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland increasingly optimistic on Lowe while Hansen not ruled out yet

Second row James Ryan remains a doubt for the quarter-final.

IRELAND REMAIN OPTIMISTIC about their injury situation ahead of this weekend’s World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand, even if James Ryan could miss out on taking his place on the bench.

However, Ireland are increasingly hopeful that left wing James Lowe will be available to face the All Blacks on Saturday night in Paris, with the eye injury that forced him off at half time against Scotland continuing to improve.

Lowe was involved in training in Paris today, although he was wearing a bib to mark him out as a player returning from injury, ensuring team-mates didn’t make any accidental contact with him.

Right wing Mack Hansen picked up a calf injury in last weekend’s win over Scotland and he sat out training in Paris today.

However, it’s understood that Ireland are still hoping Hansen could be involved in their training session tomorrow and prove that he’s fit to take on New Zealand this weekend. Understandably, they’re said to be keen to manage Hansen’s workload this week.

They will give key man Hansen every chance to prove he can play in the quarter-final but if Hansen ends up being ruled out tomorrow, then Keith Earls is expected to come into the Ireland team on the right wing.

36-year-old Earls is recovering well from a hamstring strain that meant he wasn’t available for the Scotland match and he trained with Ireland today.

james-lowe James Lowe at Ireland training today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Centre Robbie Henshaw also trained today as his hamstring issue improves quicker than initially expected and he may even come into contention to feature on the bench this weekend. If the quarter-final comes too soon for Henshaw, it’s thought Ireland believe he could be involved in a potential semi-final.

Second row James Ryan, who came off the bench against Scotland, remains a doubt for weekend, having gone for a specialist appointment after suffering a wrist/hand injury in last weekend’s game.

It’s understood that Ryan returned to Dublin for that specialist visit. He was not present at training in Paris today.

Ryan played through obvious pain to finish the game against the Scots and while Ireland issued a relatively optimistic update on the Leinster man yesterday, saying he has not been ruled out of the All Blacks clash, he is a clear doubt.

However, it’s understood that Ireland are optimistic that if they reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, Ryan could be fit enough to feature in that game against Wales or Argentina.

If Ryan misses out this weekend against the All Blacks, his place on the bench is set to go to either Ryan Baird or Joe McCarthy.

Baird started in the second row for Ireland’s Grand Slam-clinching win over England earlier this year but he has been playing at blindside flanker recently. Four-times capped McCarthy has made a big impression behind the scenes with Ireland at this World Cup and Farrell name-checked him last week ahead of the Scotland game. 15-times capped Baird certainly has the greater experience in high-stakes situations.

robbie-henshaw Henshaw was with Ireland at their session today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Andy Farrell will name his matchday 23 tomorrow, Wednesday, which is a day earlier than usual.

Ireland normally name their team on Thursday, but say they have brought it forward as Thursday is their rest day and they are not required to travel from their base in Tours this week, as was the case in previous match weeks, having already relocated to Paris for the knock-out stages. Keen to give the players a full day of rest, including from media commitments, Ireland have brought the announcement forward.

Whatever about the injury concerns early this week, it seems likely that the team Farrell names tomorrow will be similar to the one that beat Scotland last weekend, barring any fresh injury concerns from tomorrow’s training session.

Indeed, if Hansen manages to prove his fitness, the Ireland team would almost certainly be unchanged. If not, Earls’ inclusion could be the only change to the starting XV.

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