Trimble and Ferris main concerns for Paris as injury worries mount
IRELAND are waiting anxiously on injury reports concerning several key players as the build-up begins in earnest for Saturday's critical Six Nations showdown with France.
Marc Lievremont's side were comfortable 18-9 winners over Scotland in Murrayfield yesterday and Ireland coach Declan Kidney is banking on having a full hand to choose from for the trip to Paris, yesterday adding 11 players to the 22 that accounted for Italy 29-11.
These include flanker Stephen Ferris, out-half Jonathan Sexton and second-row Donncha O'Callaghan, who were all ruled out of the Grand Slam champions' opening clash. Ronan O'Gara started and put in an accomplished all-round performance at No 10 on Saturday, contributing 16 points, but was forced off with a sore knee. Second-row Paul O'Connell (swollen eye) and Andrew Trimble (tight hamstring) also left the field.
Kidney was optimistic that all three would be available for next Saturday with updates due today, although a statement issued yesterday said Trimble was a "concern".
O'Callaghan and Sexton's recoveries from leg injuries are going well, with both players mobile; the greatest concern surrounds the participation of Stephen Ferris, whose abrasive style is perfectly suited for the challenge in the Stade de France.
The Ulster No 6 was out of camp last week to keep weight off his knee but Kidney said Ferris will start "weight-loading", and his availability will depend on how he comes through. Leinster's Kevin McLaughlin made his Test debut at Croke Park in Ferris' absence and would be favourite to start on the blindside flank again if the Ulster man doesn't make it.
Meanwhile, France coach Marc Lievremont says his side must kick on from the win over Scotland and focus on the Irish challenge. Matthieu Bastareaud scored two first-half tries as the French forwards dominated, but the visitors were unable to cut loose in the second period, managing only three points.
Nonetheless, after Ireland's difficult second half against Italy, France will start warm favourites.
"We are happy with the win but we must remain focused because we have a short week to prepare for the game against Ireland when we must raise our levels again," said Lievremont. "I don't think we underachieved; anyone who thought we were going to beat Scotland by 40 points was way off.
"I watched the Ireland-Italy game on Saturday and I do not know if they will have any sense of underachievement, But I don't think it was perfect either."