Sean O'Brien fired up for Saxons clash but Healy return must wait
Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien is expected to make his return to competitive rugby in Friday's Wolfhounds fixture against England Saxons at Irish Independent Park.
But fellow long-term absentee Cian Healy will not be risked as Joe Schmidt targets a return for the Leinster loosehead in Saturday week's Six Nations opener against Italy.
Schmidt is also hoping to have his two leading scrum-halves, Conor Murray and Eoin Reddan, available for Italy too despite ongoing neck and knee problems.
"It's a possibility that Sean could play this week," confirmed Ireland assistant coach Richie Murphy.
"That decision probably won't be made until a bit later on and we see how he gets over today but he did a lot of work today and he's in a pretty good place.
"However, Cian probably won't be ready for Friday, but he's not a million miles away. He is judged on a daily basis to see where he's at. They're waiting for him to hit a certain marker and then he'll be ready to go. He's not quite there yet.
"Conor Murray trained. He didn't do any contact or anything like that but did a bit of running. He's going to see someone later on in the week but we're expecting him to be fit for next week.
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"Eoin has a small medial injury but it's quite light, a lot lighter than it was thought to be. We're expecting him to be able to get through.
"He has recovered massively in the last 24 hours and we're expecting him to be able to get back to training next week."
Dave Kearney, injured in a tackle that Wasps flanker Ashley Johnson was cited for yesterday, will also be fit for the Italy game as his shoulder is not as damaged as first thought.
England out-half Owen Farrell has been ruled out of the entire Six Nations, which may force coach Stuart Lancaster to adjust his game-plan as the back-up tens are more noted ball-players than the injured Saracens man.