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Thursday 8 December 2016

Earls unlikely to be risked, Zebo a doubt but O'Brien primed to face the French

Irish winger Keith Earls being taken off last Sunday: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Irish winger Keith Earls being taken off last Sunday: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Keith Earls is almost certainly out and Simon Zebo is the next most in doubt for Ireland's second round of the Six Nations against France in Paris on Saturday.

"We will be picking what we feel is the best team to go to war with France later," said Skills and Kicking coach Richie Murphy. "Keith has gone through HIA1 (Head Injury Assessment) and has passed that.

"He is in that process where he is sort of working through those protocols at the moment.

"It is a six-day turnaround so we will have to assess that later in the week and see where he is at."

In the meantime, the fact Fergus McFadden has been called up to the squad indicates it is unlikely Earls will be risked.

The prognosis is better on Jonathan Sexton in that Murphy described the out-half as "dinged up," but "should be fine to play".

Flanker Seán O'Brien took a full part in training at Carton House yesterday and is strongly fancied to return for Tommy O'Donnell, who is fit to play from a blow to the head.

However, there is uncertainty over the powers of recovery of Zebo from a knock to the knee.

"The report is that he's recovering really well to this point.

"As long as that keeps going he should available to train on Thursday."

Full-back Rob Kearney is almost back to full running speed and is expected to train on Thursday.

Usually, coach Joe Schmidt requires his players to participate in training early in the week in order to nail down roles and details.

"No player is going to be ruled out due to that rule this week," said Murphy.

"It is a little bit different with a six-day turnaround. It was a pretty physical game at the weekend and another one coming up.

"There are a lot of times when players would sit out a Monday if we had played on the Saturday so we are squeezed for time." Leinster props Mike Ross and Cian Healy have been retained by the province as they try to build up match sharpness.

"Cian and Rossi have been our loose-heads and tight-heads for the last long while," said Murphy.

"But, they have to earn the right to get back into the squad and, probably, their best way to work their way back into the squad is to play for Leinster and try and work their way through from there."

This leaves Joe Schmidt with the choice between Nathan White and Tadhg Furlong at tight-head with the former likely to have the chance to make good on a mediocre outing against Wales.

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