Friday 15 December 2017

D'Arcy blow leaves Kidney juggling for his future

Gordon D'Arcy
Gordon D'Arcy
Conor George

Conor George

DECLAN KIDNEY must be wondering just which gods he has offended following the news that Gordon D'Arcy has suffered a stress injury to a bone in his foot and will miss the remainder of the Six Nations Championship.

It was announced yesterday that D'Arcy had been complaining about experiencing "some discomfort in his right foot" following the game against England, but at no time was the injury mentioned during Thursday's briefing at the team's temporary base at the Dunboyne Castle Hotel when Kidney and manager Mick Kearney went through a list of those who were suffering the ill-effects of Sunday's defeat.

The discomfort did not subside and D'Arcy didn't train with the squad. However, he was still around the team base until well into Thursday night having undergone a scan on his injured foot that afternoon.

"Following a scan yesterday afternoon it was confirmed that D'Arcy has a stress injury to a bone in his foot," read an IRFU statement yesterday. "The injury will require immobilisation in a boot for at least four weeks with a projected return to play of six weeks pending further tests and specialist review."

The loss of D'Arcy is another huge blow to Ireland and, in particular, Kidney ahead of what promises to be a tricky outing in Murrayfield tomorrow week.

Ireland were going to have a patched-together look in that game even before D'Arcy's injury was revealed.

Mike McCarthy, Jonathan Sexton and Simon Zebo are definitely out of the game next Sunday, while there are concerns over the well-being of Donnacha Ryan. Sean O'Brien, Brian O'Driscoll and Rob Kearney are also carrying knocks.

Now Kidney is going to have to juggle his charges even further for a game that could well turn out to be his Waterloo. The stakes for Ireland, and for the coach in particular, are enormous. If Ireland beat Scotland, very little credit will be doled out, as this generation of Irish players are always expected to overcome their Celtic rivals.

But if Ireland lose – irrespective of the injury crisis – then the calls for a regime change will reach deafening levels.

Had Ireland defeated England, then irrespective of the injury situation, Irish spirits would be flying high and Kidney's future as Ireland coach would be assured. The defeat to England though has changed the landscape and the margin for error is now non-existent.

That matters not a whit for now though. Ireland must somehow adjust for the loss of D'Arcy against Scotland and for the rest of the tournament.

Brian O'Driscoll has put his admiration for D'Arcy on public record and recently credited him with having had a huge influence on his career.

D'Arcy has been below his explosive best for the past couple of seasons at international level, but there have been few alternative inside centres putting their hands up for his slot.

"Gordon is the best centre I have ever played with," said O'Driscoll recently.

"I wouldn't say it's a case of telepathy with us. But we don't always have to speak to each other during matches to understand each other. It's in the body language at this stage and through reading what we know the other is doing.

"It's something that happens with players, the more you play alongside each other the better you understand each other," he added.

Leinster's Fergus McFadden (pictured) is certainly a contender and his more natural position is, probably, in the No 12 shirt. He is viewed more as a winger by both club and country now, though, and starts on the left wing for Leinster tonight.

Luke Marshall is another possible candidate. The 22-year-old has only recently returned from his latest injury, however, and has been behind Paddy Wallace in the pecking order for Ulster this season. An even bigger concern could be the dead-leg that forced him off against Zebre last night.

Wallace, of course, has been Kidney's go-to replacement in this area for the past number of seasons, but has been cut adrift since being parachuted into the team for the third Test against New Zealand in Hamilton last summer.

The choice for the centre pairing has been further complicated by the injury to Connacht's Dave McSharry, who sat out their game in Galway last night.

Mcsharry would have been a contender as O'Driscoll's partner, but the seriousness of his injury is not known as yet. He had a back strain earlier in the week and is now understood to be also suffering from a groin problem.

Keith Earls is, of course, another option. The Munster man hasn't been playing with any great confidence in the centre and showed his best form of recent times on the wing when he replaced the unfortunate Zebo against England.

Meanwhile, the Ireland management will not be responding to the statement released by the Six Nations attempting to clarify the situation regarding Cian Healy's suspension.

In their statement, they reiterate that the term of Healy's suspension runs from the time of his citing on February 11 until the night of March 10, the day after Ireland's game against France in the Aviva Stadium.

According to the statement, the chairman of the independent disciplinary committee, Roger Morris of Wales, has written to the Six Nations and those representing Healy at the hearing to confirm their position.

"I do not think anyone present at the hearing on Wednesday was in any doubt that Mr Healy is not free to play again until after midnight on 10 March," it read.

As revealed in yesterday's Irish Independent, the disciplinary committee maintain they were told that Healy would not be selected to play for Leinster in tonight's match against Benetton Treviso and, as a result, disregarded this weekend in calculating the suspension.

The committee are referencing clause 2.5.99 of the 2013 Six Nations disciplinary and anti-doping rules which provide that "in determining the length of any period of suspension, the disciplinary committee will take into consideration all playing consequences of such a suspension and exclude... any periods in which the player is not fit, available and expected to play..."

The IRFU will look to counter this when they launch their appeal next week, on receipt of the written summation from the Six Nations.

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