Sunday 21 January 2018

Sean O'Brien injury fears ease as he faces make-or-break training session tomorrow

Sean O'Brien makes his way to the bench to sit out the game on Saturday
Sean O'Brien makes his way to the bench to sit out the game on Saturday

Ruaidhri O’Connor

Ireland are not ruling out Sean O’Brien or Rory Best for Saturday’s Six Nations meeting with France.

Team manager Mick Kearney confirmed that openside O’Brien had strained his hamstring in the warm-up for the opening game against Italy on Saturday, but said that the injury was on the “minor end of the scale”.

Ireland hope the Tullow native will return to training tomorrow and if he comes through that he will prove his fitness for the visit of a French side who beat Scotland last weekend.

“Sean will train with the squad tomorrow and if he comes through that he will be available for selection,” Kearney said. “We just have to see if that happens.”

Best, meanwhile, has a confirmed concussion and will follow a “gradual return to play” programme this week. He appears unlikely to make it back in time if he is not allowed to train tomorrow, but has not been ruled out.

Kearney revealed that Cian Healy came through a number of sessions last week and even did some live scrummaging.

The prop, who has been out since September, is available for selection this week along with Jamie Heaslip, Eoin Reddan and Dave Kearney who will train fully this week.

It considerably strengthens Joe Schmidt’s hand ahead of a re-match with the side Ireland beat narrow win that famous game in Paris last season.

France struggled at times against Scotland, but came out with a win in a performance that at times mirrored Ireland’s slow-burning performance in Rome.

Scrum-half Conor Murray has seen Clermont Auvergne at close-quarters in recent weeks and understands what’s coming.

“They can win ugly as well, that’s the sign of a good team,” he said.

“They’ve a lot of talent. From playing against Clermont, you can see they have quality players who can change a game like Lopez, Fofana and guys like that."

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