Irish injury crisis deepens as Sean O'Brien ruled out of Twickenham clash
Ireland's already lengthy injury list was stretched further yesterday when Joe Schmidt ruled Sean O'Brien out of their third Six Nations game against England with a grade II hamstring tear.
Dave Kearney is considered highly unlikely to be available for the Twickenham clash with his shoulder injury, while Jared Payne (hamstring) and Mike McCarthy (concussion) are significant doubts as the Six Nations champions go in search of their first win of the campaign.
There were some positives for Schmidt, who issued an injury bulletin through the IRFU yesterday, with Johnny Sexton "feeling a lot better" after suffering a "whiplash-style injury" against France, while Mike Ross and Cian Healy will train with Ireland on Thursday before being released to play for Leinster against Cardiff on Saturday.
Keith Earls and Simon Zebo are likely to come into contention after missing the defeat to France.
Schmidt has come under sustained criticism for Ireland's attacking performance after his side scored just one try in the first two games, but while he lamented his side's loss of leaders, the coach said his players have no excuses for their inability to convert territory into scores.
"When you lose a little bit of leadership, sometimes you've just got to find a way," he said. "We did get over and score at one stage (when Kearney's try was disallowed) but it was a little bit fortuitous and obviously it didn't count for anything in the end.
"I just felt that we didn't convert some of the pressure that we put on them into points and that's what you've got to do, especially against a pretty well-organised defensive side. I thought France defended really well. Tough conditions to attack, the ball was very, very slippery. It was greasy on top and it did make it difficult.
"But I don't think the players would see any excuses, with the field positions they had and not quite getting over the line.
"There's a fair bit of disappointment, a fair bit of frustration."
Meanwhile, France's Yoann Maestri last night received an official warning from the citing commissioner for his shoulder-charge on Sexton during Saturday's game.
The second-row was not cited because the act fell "just short of warranting a red card".