Joe Schmidt to leave decision on Tadhg Furlong's involvement against Wales until the last minute
IRELAND will not take risks with any of their walking wounded ahead of this Saturday's crunch NatWest Six Nations clash with Wales at Lansdowne Road.
And Joe Schmidt may wait until the last minute on Thursday morning before naming his side as he ponders whether to take a gamble on one of his most important players, Lions prop Tadhg Furlong.
Although lock James Ryan has returned to full training, Furlong (hamstring), Iain Henderson (hamstring) and Garry Ringrose have still to prove their full fitness, albeit Ringrose is highly unlikely to be parachuted straight into the starting line-up following his lengthy lay-off following ankle surgery.
Andrew Porter filled in admirably for Furlong against Italy and Schmidt would have few qualms about doing so again while Ireland also remain well-stocked in the back five of the pack, albeit the Welsh line-out will be their toughest assignment of the championship to date.
Ireland assistant coach Andy Farell did issue an upbeat assessment after the squad trained in Maynooth this morning and hopes that Furlong and Henderson will have proved their fitness when the team is selected tomorrow.
However, Joe Schmidt may even wait until after Thursday morning's training session to confirm his starting line-up.
“Tadhg is hitting his markers and he's training well,” reported Farrell. “He's not been in full training, he's been doing a bit-part of stuff and we'll make a decision on that Wednesday night,Thursday.
“James Ryan has been training with us fully for the last few days, so he's fully fit. Iain Henderson, a bit like Tadhg, is hitting his markers and pushing in the right direction. We'll assess how he pulls up after two hard days of training.
“There's not a risk, we wouldn't take risks. We back the squad that we've got, the full squad we've got, we've got quality players across the board. We'll make the right decision come Wednesday or Thursday.”
Chris Farrell is widely expected to start in the centre to renew his fitful November acquaintance with Bundee Aki although Farrell was impressed with Ringrose's initial impressions at training today.
“Garry has come back into camp today, he's looking great. I actually said to him, 'Have you put a bit of weight on?' He's looking in great nick.
“It's good to have him back, he cut us open a few times in training like he normally does. He's short of game time, obviously, but he's a class player and he slotted straight back in today.”
Like Furlong, this Saturday's clash may come too soon for the Leinster centre; this championship hasn't yet past the half-way stage.