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Monday 5 December 2016

Robbie Henshaw is 'close to making recovery'

Sexton, O’Mahony and Henderson miss training

Ireland's Robbie Henshaw in action during squad training
Ireland's Robbie Henshaw in action during squad training

Robbie Henshaw was described as “very close” to overcoming his hamstring injury by Ireland assistant coach Richie Murphy.

The centre was unable to compete fully in Ireland’s training session yesterday, making him a doubt for Romania on Sunday.

“Robbie trained reasonably hard today, he did a lot of running and a lot of passing,” said Murphy.

“He’s in a position where he’s returning to full fitness and he’s very close.

“Whether Robbie will be ready for this week we’re not quite sure at this moment, but we’re hoping that he will.”

It would contrary to Ireland’s recent form in situations like these to take a chance on Henshaw, however small, with Italy and France in the offing.  

Murphy was unconcerned at the lack of time together for Henshaw and Jared Payne. 

“Those combinations, you want to try to build them, but those guys know each other pretty well now,” said Murphy.

“I know they haven’t played an awful lot together, but their understanding of each other has been pretty good up until now.

“So if they get the opportunity to play together this week that will build on that, but if not, we don’t see it as a major problem going forward.”

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton, flanker Peter O’Mahony and lock Iain Henderson were withheld from training as nothing more than precautionary moves to monitor minor knocks.  

Any danger to Sexton’s fitness would send a shiver of fear through Camp Ireland.

“No, it’s nothing serious with Johnny,” cautioned Murphy.

“He picked up a bit of a knock to his knee during the game and we just felt it was right to let him sit out training today.

“He’s fine. Everyone’s in contention for Sunday, he’s definitely not ruled out for any reason.”

Coach Joe Schmidt will announce Ireland’s team to play Romania tomorrow around lunchtime.

Meanwhile, Henshaw’s Connacht team-mate Kieron Marmion remains on standby for Ireland as he works his way through the introductory chapters of the PRO12 League for his province. 

“I am not sure if I am next in line. I just know Joe told me to be fresh and ready to go.

“You never know what might happen,” he held out.

The notion that Ian Madigan can just rock up and pull on a number nine – or 21 – jersey in the World Cup does stretch the imagination.

Would it be difficult? “Yeah, it would. It certainly is a specialist position,” said Marmion.

“You wouldn’t really know until he is put in that position.”

This all comes with the qualifier that if anyone can, Madigan can.

The Leinster playmaker just has that self-belief. It shines through in his goal-kicking and in the way he can bounce back from setbacks.

Of course, it is unlikely Ireland will have to call on Madigan given the length of time between their matches and the clause which allows them to rotate in another nine, like Marmion or Isaac Boss, should either Conor Murray or Eoin Reddan fall foul of injury during any of the matches.

The decision to ask Madigan to cover more than one base only really arises should a problem happen closer to game day, like at the Captain’s Run.

At the moment, Ireland are on course in their mission to win out Pool D with the Romanians, the Italians and the French lying in wait.

Nonetheless, Marmion liked what he saw against Canada as Ireland showed definite signs of progress from pre-season.

“It was quite an impressive start. We got past Canada pretty comfortably,” he stated.

“Some of the lesser nations have surprised some of the stronger ones, so it was good to see Ireland not get caught out.”

The Connacht man was just another who found himself wrapped up in what happened between Japan and South Africa in Brighton.

Sadly, four days later, Scotland came up with all the answers The Springboks couldn’t.

They brought Japan crashing back down to earth 45-10 at Kingsholm yesterday to move to the head of Pool B.

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