Doubts grow over O'Driscoll and Earls as Irish resources dwindle to 22
IRELAND'S resources are being stretched to the limit in the build-up to Saturday week's Test against South Africa, with just 22 fit players available for squad training in Limerick this week.
With the injured Paul O'Connell, Tomas O'Leary and Jerry Flannery already out of contention, Ireland manager Paul McNaughton revealed that Brian O'Driscoll (hamstring) and Keith Earls (ankle) will take no active part in the squad sessions this week, while Gordon D'Arcy (calf) and Rory Best (head) are not expected to train properly until tomorrow at the earliest.
With eight players released back to the provinces yesterday for Magners League duty, training numbers have been severely hit, to the extent that six Academy players from across the provinces will join the squad today to help with training.
Ireland captain O'Driscoll has been nursing a hamstring injury since Leinster's victory over Racing Metro on October 9 and sitting out training this week places his availability for the South Africa Test in doubt. Earls has featured for Munster in their last two outings and, given his lack of match fitness, the intention was to release him to face Ulster on Friday.
However, the Irish medical team, in consultation with their Munster counterparts, decided that Earls should be rested this week, which also raises doubts about his capacity to face the Springboks.
Three players, John Hayes, Peter Stringer and Johne Murphy were released to Munster, and three to Connacht -- Brett Wilkinson, John Muldoon and Gavin Duffy -- with Shane Horgan and Isaac Boss, rejoining Leinster.
Meanwhile, former All Black prop Greg Feek, who has been working in a consultancy capacity with Leinster this season, has been asked to work with the Irish scrum during the November series.