Sunday 25 February 2018

Rob Kearney blow opens door for Simon Zebo

Simon Zebo is set to continue in the No 15 jersey. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Simon Zebo is set to continue in the No 15 jersey. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Rob Kearney has failed to recover from his hamstring injury in time to be available to face Scotland this weekend, meaning Joe Schmidt looks highly likely to stick with the starting XV who got his team back to winning ways against Italy.

The full-back has remained with Leinster for the week as he continues to rehabilitate the troublesome muscle injury, meaning Simon Zebo is set to continue in the No 15 jersey.

After his squad was disrupted by injuries early on in the tournament, the head coach appears unlikely to tinker with the side that ran in nine tries against the Azzurri.

Schmidt has spoken about trying to build combinations ahead of the three-Test tour of South Africa this summer and, while he may be tempted to freshen up his back-row, the bench looks to have the most obvious room for change as Cian Healy and Eoin Reddan are set to return to training today.

Munster pair Andrew Conway and Dave Kilcoyne have been added to the 35-man squad who trained at Carton House yesterday.

"Rob's hamstring is still niggling him and it just means it would be a risk to push him on this week, so we've decided to leave that to let him to recover fully. He's probably only a week or two away, but that is probably too tight for us. It will give somebody else an opportunity," Schmidt said.

"Everyone else came through (the Italy game) OK, Cian Healy and Eoin Reddan look like they're ready to go for tomorrow's training and if that goes well they'll come into the frame."

Meanwhile, Scotland have major doubts over the fitness of out-half Finn Russell and second-row Jonny Gray for the final game of their campaign.

Russell is going through the graduated return to play protocols after suffering a concussion against France and his task is made more difficult by the six-day turnaround, while Gray has a pectoral strain.

Despite the fact that England have claimed the title, Schmidt believes that there is plenty to play for.

"The players are looking to drive on and consolidate that win against Italy and put a really good performance together," he said.

"There's a lot to play for, if we lose we'll finish fifth, if we win we could potentially get third and a third-placed finish is a pretty solid result."

Irish Independent

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