Sport Rugby

Saturday 20 January 2018

Kearney incident will not affect O'Connell's armband hopes

Conor George

Conor George

IRELAND coach Joe Schmidt insisted there was no issue between himself and Paul O'Connell in the aftermath of his comments regarding the Lions lock in Dave Kearney's concussion during last season's game between Munster and Leinster.

O'Connell inadvertently kicked Kearney in the head and knocked him unconscious during the game.

The Ireland second-row was not sanctioned during the game and wasn't cited afterwards.

At the time Schmidt was very critical of the decision not to cite O'Connell, but distanced the player from those criticisms.

It has been suggested that O'Connell might be offered the Ireland captaincy under Schmidt.

"You represent your players and Dave Kearney was the forgotten man in what was reported regarding that incident," said Schmidt. "He was in a rich vein of form at the time and as a result he didn't get an opportunity to play in the play-offs for us.

"It was unfortunate. A lot of things happen on a rugby field and happen quickly. When you have 30 big men playing physical sport incidents will occur."

Schmidt refused to be drawn on the identity of a possible captain and mentioned O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip, and Rory Best as possible candidates.

Munster optimistic Botha will return for Leinster clash

Munster hope to have tighthead prop BJ Botha back from injury for their game against Leinster in Thomond Park on October 5.

The former South Africa international suffered a knee strain in the final minutes of Munster's 27-13 victory over London Irish at Musgrave Park on Friday night and it was initially feared he might miss a large part of the season.

He had a scan yesterday afternoon but the hope is that he will only miss the opening four games of the Celtic League season.

If he does return in time for the Leinster game, he will then be available for the opening two pool games of Munster's Heineken Cup season, against Edinburgh and Gloucester. Munster are scheduled to give an update on Botha's situation this afternoon.

Meanwhile, they are expected to have few, if any, of their returning Ireland internationals available for Saturday night's season-opener against Edinburgh in Cork, kick-off 7.15.

The Ireland players are all working through individual pre-season routines and it could be games two and three before they are available. There is no firm date on when their Lions players will be back.

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