O'Brien targets return in time for Six Nations
Sean O'Brien has already set himself a target of returning in time for the Six Nations after the Ireland flanker broke his right arm during yesterday's win over Argentina.
That's according to coach Joe Schmidt, who said he and his squad were "gutted" to see O'Brien suffer a fresh setback that has ruled him out for at least a couple of months.
The Tullow native is set to undergo surgery and Schmidt revealed that O'Brien had already turned his focus to the rehab required to miss as little time as possible. The 31-year old was sidelined for the majority of last season with a shoulder problem, and the latest setback comes as a major blow to Schmidt's plans for the rest of the month.
"Sean has broken his right arm so he obviously won't be available for the rest of the Guinness Series," Schmidt confirmed. "He's gutted. I am gutted for him. I think the team are. I thought he was just getting into the rhythm of the game.
"Talking to him after the game, he is already thinking about his rehab and trying to make sure that he gets back. He's got a big target in a year's time (World Cup) that he wants to get to. I described him as a stubborn man on Thursday. I think that ability to bounce back, that resilience he has, will still give him a chance of getting back in time, towards the end of the year and then into the Six Nations."
Schmidt said it is "highly unlikely" that Conor Murray will enter the equation for the visit of the All Blacks next weekend. The Munster scrum-half hasn't played yet this season as he battles against a troublesome neck injury, with Schmidt stressing that he will not put on any pressure on Murray to make a comeback ahead of schedule.
"It's not the injury, it's really just how ready Conor is and how fully fit he is," Schmidt continued. "The injury itself has gone really well. It is tough to throw him back into a game of that magnitude. It's highly unlikely that he will be involved but I will talk to him tomorrow."
Robbie Henshaw will be assessed over the coming days, having pulled up in the warm-up with a tight hamstring.
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"We are hopeful because we didn't push him," Schmidt said. "We could have tried to see how he went on the pitch but it was right towards the end of warm-up and we just felt that it would be a two-fold risk: one, would he do more damage? And two, it's always difficult if you've got to substitute someone five minutes into a Test match."
Kieran Marmion also hobbled off before the hour mark with a leg injury, with his replacement Luke McGrath enjoying a fine cameo including the try that killed off Argentina's challenge.
"He rolled his ankle ; he did play on so we would be very hopeful that he will be fine," Schmidt said.
"He might have to elevate his ankle for the next 24 or 48 hours and get a bit of ice on it but we are relatively confident he will be okay."
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