Ireland hope to have both Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton available to face England in their final Six Nations encounter as Joe Schmidt’s side attempt to save face by preventing their rivals claiming a second successive Grand Slam.
Both Murray and Sexton were forced off the field during the disappointing 22-9 defeat by Wales last Friday night that subsequently ended Ireland’s hopes of winning the Six Nations title, which was confirmed when England thrashed Scotland the following day.
Murray was replaced shortly after half-time as he struggled to cope with a ‘stinger’ injury to his left shoulder, while Sexton required a Head Injury Assessment after taking a blow to the head. However, the Ireland team manager, Paul Dean, confirmed that Sexton came through the HIA unscathed, and should partner Murray again at half-back when they face England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.
"Johnny Sexton underwent a precautionary HIA at the weekend. Concussion has been ruled out and he's available for selection," Dean said on Monday.
"Jonathan went through all the concussion tests, so he's completely clear. He has a black eye, which is not his best look, but other than that, he should be fine.
"Conor Murray sustained a stinger injury to his left shoulder. He's responded well to treatment and he's available for selection.
"A stinger injury is a curious injury, it's a numbness that happens on the pitch. You recover quite quickly, all going well.
"Conor's such a very good player, we gave him as much opportunity to recover from the stinger, but as you all saw he didn't recover completely, and we had to take him off. But he's fine, he's fine.”
The news isn’t so good though for the veteran wing, Tommy Bowe, who has to be taken from the field on a cart just seconds after coming on as a second-half replacement, with Dean confirming that the initial prognosis is a broken leg.
"Tommy Bowe has a suspected fracture of his left leg,” he added. "He'll see a specialist (on Monday) and he's back at Ulster, and we wish Tommy a speedy recovery.
"Fergus McFadden will train with the squad this week, and he replaces Tommy Bowe."
Ireland must beat England to not only stop them from winning the Grand Slam and setting a new world record of 19 consecutive victories, but also to stop them having an unwanted record bestowed on the current side, given that they have not failed to win any of their three Triple Crown matches since 1998. A 27-22 defeat by Scotland on the opening weekend and last Friday’s loss to Wales leaves Ireland staring at the humiliation of failing to beat any of their nearest rivals, but Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony has stood by head coach Schmidt and insisted that the squad still have full confidence in the New Zealander.
"Four months ago you go and beat the All Blacks, and it's a different press conference to what we're having now,” O’Mahony said on Monday.
Six Nations team of the weekend - round four
Six Nations team of the weekend - round four
1/15 15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
The full-back flourished in bringing George North into the game as he repeatedly joined the back line to give Wales an extra man in attack. He tackled well, with a memorable stop on Rob Kearney halting an Irish attack in full flow. Has put himself back into the running for the Lions berth.
2/15 14. George North (Wales)
Back to his devastating best with two tries this week. His first was a brutal display of power as he carried both Simon Zebo and Keith Earls over the try line to score, while his second was the result of a great drive from the Welsh pack. A mazy run towards the end of the victory over Ireland triggered one last attack as his side searched in vain for the bonus point.
3/15 13. Jonathan Joseph (England)
A brilliant performance provided a timely reminder of what he is capable of. Three tries, each of differing styles, paved the way for England’s stunning 61-21 victory over Scotland. The first try saw Joseph display his pace and power, the second one came from dazzling footwork and the third saw him cut a lovely inside line to break cleanly from short range.
4/15 12. Owen Farrell (England)
After his horror show against Italy, Farrell was back to his best again to convert all but one of his kicks at goal – the one he missed was from his own half – and he was much smarter with his kicking to touch following the errors that littered his display a fortnight ago. Brought Joseph into the attack superbly, and finished the game at 10 once more.
5/15 11. Virimi Vakatawa (France)
A great week for the French wing as he scored a devastating try that put Italy out of the game and racked up more metres than anyone else this week, making an average of more than 10m per break. He beat eight defenders and made four clean breaks, and provided a display that proved just what a dangerous open-field runner he can be.
6/15 10. George Ford (England)
Ford was able to take the fight to Scotland with the pack providing him with front-foot ball to work with. The fly-half linked up superbly with Farrell outside him, and also brought his three-quarters into the game with devastating results.
7/15 9. Rhys Webb (Wales)
A strong performance from Webb saw him create the first try for North with a smart supporting run to take an offload from Scott Williams and release a beautiful wide pass for Halfpenny to run on to. He was alert in defence and got the better of Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray in their battle for the Lions No 9 shirt.
8/15 1. Rob Evans (Wales)
A strong performance from the loosehead against an Irish scrum that until now had gotten the better of all its opponents. Carried multiple times, albeit with little success, but that took its toll on the Irish defence as it tired.
9/15 2. Guilhem Guirado (France)
The standout hooker this week as the French captain led by example, making an impressive 31 metres with the ball in hand and 11 tackles in defence, not to mention sealing a turnover in the process.
10/15 3. Rabah Slimani (France)
Joins his skipper in the front row after displacing Uini Atonio in the side and delivering much better performances. An impressive showing in the loose.
11/15 4. Joe Launchbury (England)
A candidate for player of the tournament. Launchbury has excelled on his return to the Test fold, and he once again led by example as he made a phenomenal 22 tackles against Scotland, as well as enjoying success with the ball in hand.
12/15 5. Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
Return to form this week as he put his body on the line, making 18 tackles and 14 carries. He also disrupted the Irish lineout, stealing one throw on his own 5m line, but his best performance came in terms of his decision-making as he got all the big calls right.
13/15 6. Sam Warburton (Wales)
A brilliant performance in defence saw Warburton set the tone for Wales’s physical dominance over Ireland. He made more tackles than anyone else on the pitch in Cardiff, and he looks to be suited to not having the burden of the captaincy hanging over him.
14/15 7. Kevin Gourdon (France)
France have found their natural replacement for Thierry Dusautoir as Gourdon once again displayed his talents in the win over Italy. He carried well for more than 50 metres, and did his job in defence to slow down the Italian attack at the breakdown.
15/15 8. Nathan Hughes (England)
Scotland made the mistake of not double-marking him, and he ran riot as a result. The Wasps No 8 appeared to send out a message that the returning Billy Vunipola would not be taking his shirt easily, and made an impressive 74 metres from 11 carries.
"So it's not like we've thrown everything out and have done something different. It's pretty much the same squad - we've just got to finish off the small things.
"And we can beat anybody in the world on our day.
"So we just need to be a little bit more accurate and it's nearly there - it's the smallest of margins.Reuse content