Tuesday 12 December 2017

Anxious wait for Ireland with Rob Kearney injury

Full-back facing race to be fit for crucial French tie

Ireland's Rob Kearney (centre) during the Captain's Run at Wembley Stadium, London
Ireland's Rob Kearney (centre) during the Captain's Run at Wembley Stadium, London

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers are right. The waiting is the hardest part.

Ireland’s Rob Kearney would have endured the torture of time as a scan on what could be a “gluteal strain” took place in Guildford yesterday.

“We’re really going to have to wait and see what the results of the scan are like later,” said team manager Mick Kearney.

“I’d say it could be 24-to-48 hours before we have a definitive view on whether he’ll be available at the weekend or not.”

It is not just Italy that will cause a ripple of anxiety to coach Joe Schmidt and the decorated full-back.

It is the prospect of potentially missing out on Ireland’s tie-breaker against France on Sunday week.

Beyond that, there is the appalling vista of Kearney failing to recover for a likely quarter-final against either New Zealand or Argentina.

 A quick research into available medical evidence reveals how a minor gluteal strain should clear up in one to three weeks. A large tear should take four to six weeks, even longer depending on the severity of the injury.

The latter would be a heartbreaker for Kearney. The level of medical attention at Camp Ireland and resources open to them is such that Kearney could push for the French game.

The idea Schmidt would risk Kearney’s World Cup on Italy is highly unlikely unless there is certainty over the prognosis.

Were such a blow to occur, it would be tempered by the sound form of Simon Zebo at full-back against Romania.

He was granted compassionate leave by World Rugby to be close to his family in light of his grandfather John Geary passing away at Cork University Hospital yesterday morning.

Zebo is expected to rejoin the Ireland squad today, making him available to play.

Whatever about the merits of the Munster man’s undoubted attacking skills, the security Kearney provides as the last man back is something Ireland rely on. 

This can be found in how Zebo let a high ball bounce forward off his chest against Romania compared to the way Kearney gobbles those up.

No doubt, the X-Factor ability which enabled Zebo to ping three try-making passes was impressive, especially the outrageous 26-metre spinner to Keith Earls.

There have been no adverse after-effects for Earls to contemplate from a head knock as a result of poor technique in the tackle. The left wing passed his pitch-side assessment on Sunday and was fully expected to complete his protocols today in order to put his hand up for the next assignment.

Earls will be wary about the potential for Tommy Bowe, Zebo or Luke Fitzgerald to get and take an opportunity should something happen to the Limerick man.

He moved alongside Brian O’Driscoll as Ireland’s leading try-scorer at the World Cup with seven from two tournaments against O’Driscoll’s four campaigns.

It was a statistic that backed-up his hot form in what is such a heavily contested area of selection. “I’m concentrating on looking after myself. That’s the main thing,” he said.

“I’m staying healthy. I’m keeping my head down. I just want to play every week.”

He still found the humility to deflect the praise to the backs inside.

“It’s the lads that are around me as well. It’s comfortable. It’s all about the team with us.”

The odds favour Robbie Henshaw wearing the number 12 shirt against Italy.

He has been cleared to train fully this week from a hamstring strain which allowed Darren Cave to stake a claim on Sunday. The 22-year-old is one half of what Schmidt has called “a manufactured midfield,” leaving the security of the Henshaw-Jared Payne combination open to interpretation.  

It was interesting to note how Cave blossomed when he was moved one out to 13 against the Romanians.

Schmidt has decisions to make.

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