Wednesday 28 September 2016

Rory Best must prove fitness for Ireland's clash with Scotland

Published 15/03/2016 | 15:06

Rory Best, pictured, must prove his fitness after calf trouble ahead of Ireland's RBS 6 Nations clash with Scotland
Rory Best, pictured, must prove his fitness after calf trouble ahead of Ireland's RBS 6 Nations clash with Scotland

Ireland captain Rory Best must prove his fitness on Thursday in order to face Scotland in Saturday's final RBS 6 Nations encounter.

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Ireland's most-capped hooker sat out Tuesday's training with a tight calf in what assistant coach Richie Murphy deemed a precautionary move.

The 33-year-old Ulster front-rower is expected to come through in time for the Aviva Stadium clash, with Cian Healy and Eoin Reddan now also back in training.

Healy missed the 58-15 win over Italy with hamstring trouble while Reddan was sidelined with a calf problem, but both are now free to return to the squad to face Scotland.

"Rory Best sat out of training today," said Ireland's skills coach Murphy.

"He trained yesterday and came off. He was a little tight in the calf at the end of training.

"It was judged not to train him today and he should be ready to train on Thursday."

Murphy revealed Ireland's medical team expect 93-cap Best to be back to full fitness comfortably in time to take on Scotland this weekend.

When asked if Ireland's coaching staff had any concerns over Best for the weekend, Murphy replied: "Not really; the medics feel like he should be fine and ready to go for Thursday."

Rob Kearney's absence with hamstring trouble hands Simon Zebo the opportunity to continue at full-back with Ireland desperate for victory to claw their way to a mid-table Six Nations finish.

The draw with Wales and defeats to France and England scuppered any chance of Ireland defending the title they had won for the previous two seasons running.

The untroubled nine-try victory over Italy last weekend has set head coach Joe Schmidt's men back to winning ways though, but Scotland will provide a far sterner examination this weekend.

Ireland could well field the same starting XV as against Italy, should Best come through his fitness worry, with the return of Leinster duo Healy and Reddan potentially bolstering resources from the bench.

"Eoin Reddan returned to training today. Cian Healy trained yesterday and today as well," said Murphy.

"Both guys are fit and ready for selection this week."

Conor Murray has warned Ireland to avoid slipping into a false sense of security after the cakewalk victory over Italy meanwhile.

Ireland's wary scrum-half has warned his team-mates to expect a Scotland side transformed from this time last term.

Ireland thumped Scotland 40-10 at Murrayfield to secure their second consecutive Six Nations crown last year, but Munster half-back Murray expects no repeat.

Scotland claimed their first win against France in 10 years last weekend, following on from narrowly missing out on a World Cup semi-final in the autumn.

Now British and Irish Lions star Murray has warned Ireland to be on their mettle on Saturday, or come up short.

"Everyone's happy to have beaten Italy but you can be tricked into thinking this Six Nations will just fade out and we'll finish it well," said Murray.

"Scotland are going really well at the moment, and they'll be gunning for us after last year's result and that team that played us that day are completely different from what we'll face this weekend.

"We've had to bring ourselves back down to earth this week.

"Some of the tries we scored against Italy, they won't happen again this weekend. It will be a different story.

"They will be a well-oiled machine coming here and looking to do damage.

"We still had to go out there and do a job against Italy and you can only play what's in front of you.

"Italy started quite well but as soon as we scored a few their heads went down.

"You can definitely learn things from that: you just can't trick yourself into thinking you're as good as the scoreline suggested."

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