Sunday 25 February 2018

McLaughlin gets the call to replace injured Ferris


Fixtures between Ireland and the Barbarians are dodgy affairs. There's a decent chance of coming second, and being embarrassed, and roughly the same odds apply to losing players you'll want for whatever tour follows.

Before Ireland even step on the plane for Heathrow tomorrow ahead of Tuesday's fixture with the Barbarians in Kingsholm, they have lost Stephen Ferris. And that by the time they fly on to New Zealand later in the week, there will be another casualty or two as well.

The absence of Ferris from the tour is down to a calf tear, which seemingly he did before the Leinster game and offered up because of the day that was in it. You'd wonder if a summer off for the flanker might be no harm anyway. There is better news on Paul O'Connell who did some light running last week and is walking around with no support on his knee. Seán O'Brien, who had a scope last week on an injured knee, and Cian Healy (quad) are the other concerns, though both are expected to travel.

Isaac Boss won't be involved on Tuesday but it would be a surprise at this stage if his quad injury was to prevent him from making the tour. More than that it would be a disaster for the Leinster player who, unusually in Declan Kidney's tenure, found himself on the sheet when the names were being read out.

Leinster's Kevin McLaughlin is the beneficiary of Ferris's withdrawal, while the AN Others announced in Kidney's original squad will comprise O'Connell, Brett Wilkinson and Chris Henry up front, and Boss behind. The state of play after Tuesday in Gloucester will probably be a different story.

The one good thing about playing this mob is that you don't have to spend hours analysing them -- for there are no patterns to examine. And Ireland will need all the time they have, since assembling on Thursday last week, to sort themselves out.

"So far we've just been brushing up on things," says Conor Murray, who will form the half-back partnership with Ronan O'Gara.

"Obviously there's a few new faces -- fellas who've been in the Six Nations; players who were in the 'A' game against the Saxons (in January) and then players who weren't in either. So we have three groups trying to come together -- we're going through match menus and getting our way of playing into everyone's mind. We can't go into too much depth with what we're doing -- just have a lean menu that we all know quite well."

Murray was a satellite in Munster, never mind Ireland, when the boys in green were run ragged by the boys in black and white ahead of the corresponding game in 2010. And the tour that followed wasn't too hot either. Let's see how this one pans out.

Ireland (probable): K Earls; S Zebo, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; R O'Gara, C Murray; B Wilkinson, M Sherry, D Fitzpatrick, D Ryan, D Tuohy, P O'Mahony, J Muldoon, C Henry.

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