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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Heaslip can mentor Ireland's number eight in clash against England

Jamie Heaslip, right, could miss the rest of Ireland's quest to defend their RBS 6 Nations crown
Jamie Heaslip, right, could miss the rest of Ireland's quest to defend their RBS 6 Nations crown

The value Jamie Heaslip can bring to Ireland as a mentor this week is immeasurable.

The wealth of experience from his 70 international caps and his two British & Irish Lions tours of duty to South Africa and Australia are heavy enough for him to avoid being released back to Leinster.

"Jamie has obviously got 70 odd caps for Ireland and he has missed very few games," said Team Manager Mick Kearney (inset).

"He has captained Ireland. He is part of the leadership group in the team and he is vocal.

"He is a very clever guy and I think he will be hugely important in terms of whoever will be selected at No 8 on Sunday so he is a good guy to have around camp even though, as I say, he is injured and not available."

The rumour mill has been churning with the probability Leinster team-mate Jordi Murphy will follow his shift at No 8 against Italy with another against England.

Jonathan Sexton arrived back to camp on Monday with no ill-effects from his 66-minute outing for Racing Metro in the Top-14.

Back five forward Iain Henderson will train this week from a dead leg and knee bruising.

The Ulsterman is another candidate for promotion on the basis of his extra bulk and unusual athleticism.

The only problem is that it would lead to a back row reshuffle with Peter O'Mahony pressed into service at No 8.

Flanker Tommy O'Donnell is following return-to-play protocols from a concussion and hooker Richardt Strauss has come through the same process to be declared fit to train.

Scrum-half Kieran Marmion (shoulder) and prop Nathan White (back spasm) have been released back to Connacht with Robbie Diack (back spasm) released to Ulster.

Meanwhile, Rhys Ruddock is fit and firing for selection against The Ospreys in the PRIO12 League on Friday night.

"Rhys was outstanding in November and he would be a massive addition I think to the squad," said Kearney.

"If he plays this weekend that would be great and then there's obviously two weeks in the lead-up to the Welsh game.

"That would be very much a coach's call. I'm not sure what they're thinking."

Hooker Strauss will be joined by centre Noel Reid and second row Tom Denton to complete a set of three returning from concussion.

Flanker Shane Jennings (shoulder), wing Zane Kirchner and second row Ben Marshall (ankle) are in the frame for Matt O'Connor.

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