Irish woe deepens as O'Connell out of Pumas clash
As Ireland slipped to their worst losing sequence in 14 years, they have been further rocked by the news that Paul O'Connell will definitely not be available for the crucial clash against Argentina in two weeks' time.
Coach Declan Kidney confirmed after Saturday's dull 16-12 defeat to South Africa that, on the basis of preliminary medical reports, the talismanic second-row will not be ready to return this month.
Ireland may need to defeat Argentina in order to secure their position as second-tier seeds for next month's World Cup draw, with the Pumas' victory against Wales on Saturday has heightening the pressure on Kidney's side.
"I think a return (for Paul O'Connell) against Argentina would be extremely doubtful," revealed Kidney after his heavily depleted side were held scoreless in a second half in which new captain Jamie Heaslip was sin-binned.
"That's the first report from the medics. I'd like to get a full report from them before I give you guys proper guidelines. I don't see him coming back for Argentina."
Kidney is likely to shake up his side for the Thomond Park clash against Fiji next weekend, but he was encouraged by performances from the newer players, including South African-born Richardt Strauss, who was seen to raucously sing the national anthem before packing down against his cousin Adriaan.
"He's gone very well," said Kidney. "He got a right dint in the first play of the game, came off and got a few stitches in his lower lip. He was a good player for us and he'll get stronger and stronger as time goes on.
"He learned the anthem off his own bat. He wanted to get citizenship, he wants to be here. How many Irish are abroad? Eighty million? He's just on the reverse side."
Former Leinster star Felipe Contepomi will miss the game on Saturday week after sustaining what could be a career-ending knee injury, while Juan Martin Hernandez is also an injury doubt for the battle-hardened Pumas, who must travel to France this weekend following their impressive 26-12 victory against Wales.
Victory by just one more point would have seen them also leapfrog sixth-placed Wales in the world rankings -- as it is, they are seventh while Ireland are clinging on to eighth.
Ireland (possible v Fiji ) -- Zebo; Bowe, Earls, McFadden, Gilroy; Sexton, Murray; Kilcoyne, Cronin, Bent, Ryan, McCarthy, Henderson, Henry, Heaslip (capt). Subs: Court, Sherry, Archer, McLaughlin, Tuohy, P Marshall, L Marshall, T O'Halloran.