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Friday 15 December 2017

Jamie Heaslip might be given cold shoulder for Italians

Leinster's Jamie Heaslip
Leinster's Jamie Heaslip
Jamie Heaslip

Manager Mick Kearney has conceded to "some small doubt" about Jamie Heaslip for Ireland's visit to Rome in the Six Nations.

The number eight has been managing a shoulder injury for four weeks and has been seen to soothe the problem with ice packs after leaving the battle scenes against Castres Olympique and Wasps in The Champions Cup just when he was most needed.

"Jamie, being the professional athlete that he is, really does look after his body extremely well and would have worked on it over the weekend.

"I suppose the next day or two would tell a lot," said Kearney.

"But there would be a small degree of doubt about him. Yes."

What goes for Sean O'Brien does not necessarily go for Cian Healy.

The Tullow Tank's return from four months out with a shoulder operation was a raging success last Friday, putting him firmly in the frame to start against Italy.

However, the intricacies of the serious hamstring injury to Healy are fraught with dangers. He was due to be tested yesterday in order to make a solid plan going forward.

But, he is running out of road in his bid to resume on the Six Nations.

"That's the coaches call," said Kearney.

"The nature of Cian's injury is that he has been out a very long time and the tests that they can do now on the hamstring are quite sophisticated, so he has to get through that marker which he will hopefully do today (Monday).

"If he comes through that test he will be allowed to train fully for the rest of the week.

"If that happens with Cian, given the athlete he is, I would expect that he would be in consideration for the French game."

The only way Healy can make an impact in the Six Nations is by playing his way into match fitness, just as O'Brien started to do against the English Saxons.

There are few men in Irish rugby for whom an exception can be made. O'Brien and Healy are two of them.

There would seem to be little reason for Healy to be retained in the Irish squad unless he held out reasonable expectation of playing a role in Italy.

It is one thing to use the English Saxons as a stepping stone, as O'Brien did, or even to restart the season in Rome this Saturday.

It is another to do it against France the next week.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Sexton is scheduled to see his neurosurgeon in Paris on Thursday to evaluate the progress he has made as he nears the end of his 12-week sabbatical from the game.

The perceived crisis at scrum-half could be eased by Conor Murray's return to full contact training this week.

Leinster scrum-half Eoin Reddan has been tentatively pencilled in for training today.

Wings Dave Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald have been cleared to mount their challenges for game time.

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