Tuesday 16 January 2018

Broken dreams as Ireland's walking wounded fall short

Simon Zebo leaves the pitch with team doctor Eanna Falvey.
Simon Zebo leaves the pitch with team doctor Eanna Falvey.
Conor George

Conor George

Ireland's Grand Slam bid was ground into the mud of the Aviva Stadium as Declan Kidney's men were left with a long list of injured warriors and shattered ambitions by a super-efficient and ruthless England.

Kidney must quickly find a way to rescue the season, for a championship bid is still possible. But the repercussions from yesterday's disappointment will resonate for some time, not least for Cian Healy, who is facing the possibility of being cited for an alleged stamp on England's Dan Cole.

The Ireland loosehead prop was seen in various television replays to raise and lower his leg on Cole and if, as is likely, he is cited he faces the prospect of a lengthy ban. The citing commissioner has 48 hours in which to lodge his complaint.

And the bad news doesn't stop there for Ireland as Simon Zebo will miss the rest of the Six Nations after breaking a metatarsal bone in his left foot.

The winger left the ground on crutches and in a protective boot. He will be operated on today.

Depending on the severity and surgical approach taken, he will face an initial four to six weeks out of action before another two to four weeks of weight-bearing rehabilitation.

The injury could also be a damaging blow to Munster's Heineken Cup hopes, with their quarter-final clash against Harlequins set for April 7, which is eight weeks from yesterday.

Alarmingly for Ireland, Zebo's injury is just one of a number of casualties from the attritional fare at Lansdowne Road yesterday, with another six of the starting team suffering from a variety of ailments.

Jonathan Sexton tore his hamstring in the first half and will miss the next few weeks at least, Mike McCarthy has strained a medial ligament in his knee, Donnacha Ryan has suffered a back injury, Rob Kearney a dead leg, Brian O'Driscoll a twisted ankle and Sean O'Brien hamstring and thumb injuries.

Eight days after the glory of Cardiff in which Ireland's bodies took a battering in a winning cause, yesterday they couldn't find the spark which had ignited their championship campaign at the Millennium Stadium.

They rarely threatened to cross the England line, and added to the injuries, it's a perfect storm of bad news for Ireland and Declan Kidney, although the coach was trying to remain upbeat and highlighted the fact that while the Grand Slam has gone, there is still a championship potentially up for grabs.

"There is still a hell of a lot to play for," said Kidney.

"We have three games to go and will aim for three wins. That will give us eight points and we'll see where we are then.

"England have tough tests ahead too. Look, a Grand Slam is a wonderful thing, but it takes an awful lot to win one.

"We always aim for the championship first and foremost and that is still there for us.

"We'll take the view that the glass is half-full," he added.

Ireland's next outing is against Scotland in Edinburgh in a fortnight's time.

Irish Independent

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