Kelly blow ahead of U-20s' Italy clash
Ireland's U-20s have been dealt a major blow ahead of their Six Nations clash in Italy on Friday, as captain Jack Kelly is unlikely to feature.
The hugely talented full-back was forced off with a shoulder injury in the second-half of Ireland's win over Scotland last week and sat out training yesterday.
A final decision on his fitness will be made today, but if, as expected, he isn't fit enough to train again, Nigel Carolan will be forced into making a change.
Forwards coach Peter Malone was optimistic that Kelly's Six Nations was not under threat and with a week's break to come before the visit of France, the skipper should return then.
"Jack is under pressure for the weekend," Malone admitted.
"He got a real bang on the AC joint so I don't know if he has been ruled out yet, but it will be a long shot if he makes it.
"With AC injuries it's literally how you respond to the pain of it. There is no structural damage as such.
"It is just the pain on the joint and they can go from two weeks to six weeks depending how he responds to it.
"I would hope it wouldn't mean (missing) the campaign. He has just rested it for three days at the moment."
Munster out-half Bill Johnston featured for Garryowen last week in a bid to get more game time under his belt after his latest spell out with an ankle issue.
Johnston missed last season's Six Nations due to a shoulder injury and later had his Junior World Cup ended by a similar problem. Ireland will not rush the exciting 19-year-old back, but he should return for the French game.
Johnston's injury profile has become somewhat of a concern, but Malone insisted that he didn't have any doubts about his future in the professional game.
"With Bill we are going to let him play for Garryowen for two weeks and see how he is going," he said. "We have a gap after that so we have a bit of time to assess whether he comes into the squad or not. If it was another shoulder injury I would be concerned.
"He has had two operations on his shoulder, but with the ankle injury he was playing for Munster 'A' against Rotherham and he went down in the first minute and played 80, which probably didn't help the recovery.
"But he has rehabbed it conservatively. He didn't have an operation. It has been a very successful rehab.
"Like any player, it is a tough business, but with Bill you want to see him play games.
"He's a very confident, driven young man. There is always a period for any player when you are down, but with Bill, more than most, he is focused on the next goal.
"His rehab is a testament to that. We didn't expect him to be back this early at all. He got back about three or four weeks ahead of schedule."