Ireland give O’Connell extra time to prove fitness as Ross fears ease
IRELAND will give Paul O'Connell every chance of making the summer tour to New Zealand and are planning to fly the injured second-row out two days after the rest of the squad.
The Munster captain is currently in London rehabbing the knee injury that has ruled him out of action since the start of the month and, barring further complications, will fly to New Zealand from the English capital on Saturday, with the main touring party scheduled to depart on Thursday.
Already without Stephen Ferris, Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Felix Jones and retired Munster back-rows David Wallace and Denis Leamy due to injury, there was further bad news for coach Declan Kidney yesterday when scrum-half Isaac Boss joined the summer tour casualty list.
Ulster's Paul Marshall, who has been named on the Ireland bench for the warm-up clash against the Barbarians in Gloucester tonight, is the favourite to take the third scrum-half slot behind Eoin Reddan and Conor Murray, with Tomas O'Leary the other main contender for the spot.
There was better news on tight-head prop Mike Ross, with Ireland confirming that the Leinster man sustained a minor, grade one tear in his hamstring in Sunday's Pro12 defeat by the Ospreys.
This injury normally requires two weeks' recovery, and Ireland are hopeful Ross will be fit to play in the first Test against the All Blacks in Auckland on June 9.
Kidney is also optimistic that back-rower Sean O'Brien, who missed the Pro12 final after knee surgery, will be recovered in time for the Auckland Test.
The four vacant spots in the touring squad will be finalised tomorrow morning, with Brett Wilkinson, O'Connell, Chris Henry and Marshall expected to be confirmed as travelling, barring any injury issues from tonight's match.