Saturday 16 February 2019

Murphy set to benefit from Heaslip's month-long lay-off

Jordi Murphy's performance for Ireland against Italy leaves him primed for the role despite his lack of game-time in the number eight role for his club. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Jordi Murphy's performance for Ireland against Italy leaves him primed for the role despite his lack of game-time in the number eight role for his club. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Jordi Murphy looks like being the front-runner to replace Jamie Heaslip against England after the Ireland vice-captain was ruled out for four weeks yesterday.

The Leinster tyro stood in for his provincial colleague when he was left out of the opening Six Nations game against Italy two weeks ago and acquitted himself well in Rome.

He dropped out of the team to accommodate the 31-year-old's return to the fray last weekend, but crucially kept his place in the matchday squad ahead of Munster's Tommy O'Donnell who was the 24th man at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday as Sean O'Brien returned to the team.

While both O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony can play at No8, the Rome selection offered a window into Joe Schmidt's ideas on selection and the performance of Murphy leaves him primed for the role despite his lack of game-time in the specialised position for his club.

Heaslip was yesterday confirmed to have fractured three of his vertebrae on Saturday when France lock Pascal Pape kneed him in the back.

The Leinster skipper is said to be in "a good deal of discomfort", but the injury "does not affect the structural integrity of the spine" according to the IRFU. While it sounds nasty, the Ireland medical team say there should be no long term after-effects and is "akin to a soft-tissue injury".

The lay-off should allow Heaslip rehabilitate the shoulder issue that has plagued him since Christmas, while he also wore heavy strapping on his left knee on Saturday.

The union also confirmed that loosehead prop James Cronin, who came off the bench against Italy in Rome, underwent a minor operation on his knee last week.

There was no mention of Rob Kearney in the IRFU's medical briefing despite Schmidt's concern over the full-back's shoulder injury and it is understood that the Leinster man suffered bruising when attempting to stop Romain Taofifenua score the game's only try on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Johnny Sexton has returned to Paris where his club coach Laurent Labit has blamed his raft of recent concussions on the fly-half's tackling technique.

The Racing Metro supremo was critical of the "Irish" problem of going high in the tackle and spoke of his concerns for the Dubliner's future if he continues to tackle in that fashion.

Ireland were keen to stop France off-loading during last weekend's clash and routinely went high on the likes of Mathieu Bastareaud.

Sexton is just back from a 12-week lay-off after suffering four concussions in 2014 and was again assessed after clashing heads with the France centre early in the second-half. He was not found to have suffered another concussion, but needed stitches to a wound in his eye.

"He was very good in his play-making (but) defensively he has a problem that all the Irish have. They come at you in the tackle with their heads very high. His concussions come from that. Unfortunately, I fear he will suffer more of them," Labit wrote in his L'Equipe column, adding his opinion that Ireland have room to improve against England.

"Ireland are a super team with a good balance, technically they are very precise. But they can be a bit rigid when they have a five-on-four or a three-on-two. They lack creativity. But it is harsh to criticise a side that has won nine in a row."

Irish Independent

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