Sunday 15 September 2019

Healy and Murray add injury to insult in humiliating defeat

Cian Healy is treated for an ankle injury before being forced off the field in Ireland’s record defeat to England at Twickenham yesterday. Photo: David Ramos/Getty
Cian Healy is treated for an ankle injury before being forced off the field in Ireland’s record defeat to England at Twickenham yesterday. Photo: David Ramos/Getty
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

On a day when Ireland lost Cian Healy and Conor Murray to injury, the record defeat by England at Twickenham was not their main concern. The 57 points conceded exposed Ireland as being horribly off the pace against a side with an extra game under their belts in the preparation for Japan.

The fitness of Healy and Murray, however, will top Ireland's list of concerns ahead of the first of two games against Wales over the next two weeks.

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Healy was helped off with an ankle injury, and Murray didn't come back from a HIA having taken a massive blow to the side of the head.

"Cian sprained his ankle. He has had an x-ray and that's clear, so we're hopeful. He walked from the pitch so we're hopeful that he'll be ok," said Joe Schmidt afterwards.

"With Conor, he passed his HIA. We had a bit of a breakdown in our communications and he wasn't actually meant to go back out before half-time. At half-time we took him off, we were only planning to give him maybe 40 or 50 minutes and give Luke (McGrath) a decent run."

With Joey Carbery's fitness for the tournament an ongoing doubt, this warm-up series is becoming a cause of acute stress for Schmidt.

Yesterday he saw his team concede a record number of points to England in any era, let alone on his watch, the previous worst being the 45-11 defeat in Twickenham in 2002. Even allowing for the fact that England already had two games against Wales under their belts, Ireland have a huge amount to make up before facing Scotland in their opening World Cup game next month.

"There were so many aspects that we didn't get right today that we look dishevelled out there to be honest," said Schmidt.

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Earlier in the day Scotland came back from an awful start to beat France, who had walloped them in Nice last weekend, 17-14.

They will be concerned about the loss with a head injury of debutant Blade Thompson, whose first cap had been delayed to this point because of persistent concussion issues last season, and back five player Sam Skinner. Tommy Seymour also went off early. All three were considered certainties for the 31-man squad.

One of the lowest points in the Ireland performance yesterday was the lineout, where six of 15 throws were lost.

"It's incredibly frustrating but there's a big difference between training and playing against one of the best lineout defences in the world," Rory Best said afterwards. "We got within ourselves a little bit, everyone got a little bit nervous."

Ireland's tackle completion rate was also a mile off target against a vastly more explosive England side, led up front by Billy Vunipola playing his third game of the warm-up series.

Schmidt maintained that confidence won't be damaged by the result, and that Keith Earls, Jack Conan and James Ryan will likely be added to the squad for Cardiff next weekend against a Wales side who will rest some of the front-liners who were on duty against England.

"It's one of the things at this time of the year leading into a World Cup - you are trying to mix and match and give different amounts of time to different players to let them put their best foot forward and also to build a little bit of continuity for some of those guys we haven't had as much time in the team over recent years."

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