Friday 6 December 2019

Cooney kicked to touch

Carbery, Toner and Herring all still in the Ireland mix

Boost: Joey Carbery leaves the pitch with paramedics during the Match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium
Boost: Joey Carbery leaves the pitch with paramedics during the Match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium

And then there were 40. Joey Carbery has escaped the hatchet by the skin of his injured ankle.

It remains to be seen whether the estimated 4-6 weeks is as accurate as advertised by the IRFU in a statement released yesterday.

For sure, if the 'time out' was any longer, Schmidt would have wielded the axe just as he did for three others.

Devin Toner (ankle) and Rob Herring (back spasm) have come through their setbacks to take their seat on the flight to Portugal for a week of warm weather training.

However, full-back Mike Haley, dual-purpose prop Finlay Bealham and, somewhat surprisingly, scrum-half John Cooney join the previously axed Ultan Dillane and Rory Scannell.

The omission of Cooney, as a third scrum-half and third out-half and first-class goal-kicker, will come as a relief to Luke McGrath.

Clearly, Schmidt was not about to be unduly influenced by the Leinster's scrum-half's inconsistent impact against Italy.

"It's so hard in the first one, two three games of pre-season," said former Ireland hero Jamie Heaslip.

"You have to give a fair chance for everyone to show their hand. The only chance of that happening is for guys to get match fit.

"For me, it was always two games. Give me two games and you're good to go. That is probably where everyone's head is at."

It also clears the way for Jack Carty and Ross Byrne to go at it for the third spot at ten, with Carty ahead in that one-on-one.

The fact that four of the five players shed from the Ireland squad to this point did not even play a minute reveals how much stock Joe Schmidt puts in what happens in Carton House. In this case, Mike Haley was the odd man out, making his international debut in a 20-minute cameo against the Italians.

Jamie Heaslip was on the wrong end of the argument when losing out on selection for the 2007 World Cup.

"I suppose selection has always been a mad one, hasn't it? It's not easy, no words of condolence will help the lads, they'll be pissed off regardless," he said.


The retired Ireland international sees Jack Conan as "the form number eight" and is wary of how South Africa are "humming, really humming."

He defended the right of Jean Kleyn to pull on the Ireland shirt, just two days after qualifying under the residency rule, while Ultan Dillane was back in Connacht.

"I'll never go against the guy for trying to make it somewhere else and making a career out of it.

"CJ (Stander), Richardt (Strauss), Bundee (Aki), these guys left home to do it. It's a brave choice, I think.

"I can see why people might get a little bit upset but I still think those guys will be like everyone else in that changing room and want to do the jersey proud regardless."

Then, Heaslip revealed how the 'foreign player' charge was one he had to face down more than once too.

"Bloody hell, people gave out to me at times for not being Irish because I was born in Israel. It was 'Ah lads, you've lost the plot,'" he said.

"I had a funny moment as a commentator - this is when I knew the world had gone mad.

"I got accused of having a Munster bias when we were covering Munster-Gloucester."

Interestingly, Heaslip extolled the Munster quartet of Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Tadhg Beirne and Tommy O'Donnell as the four men to take his eye from the first of the four pre-season internationals.

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