Monday 23 April 2018

O'Donnell ruled out with dislocated hip as Ireland coach dreads cull

Joe Schmidt: Facing tough calls
Joe Schmidt: Facing tough calls
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Tommy O'Donnell's World Cup hopes appear to be over with the IRFU expected to confirm the Munster flanker's dislocated hip when they issue a medical bulletin this afternoon.

The Tipperary native went down in innocuous circumstances towards the end of Saturday's win over Wales, but it became apparent quite quickly that he was in severe discomfort as he was escorted off the pitch by team doctor Eanna Falvey.

If the injury is confirmed as a dislocated hip, that would mean a projected two to three-month recovery time, ruling the 28-year-old out of the tournament which kicks off on September 19.

Joe Schmidt was more upbeat regarding the foot injury suffered by Andrew Trimble who was replaced by Simon Zebo after 35 minutes, despite the fact the Ulster winger missed most of last season with a foot problem.

The Ireland coach said that some of the team who played so well at the Millennium Stadium will be retained in the matchday squad that faces Scotland on Saturday, with a number of replacements likely to be given their opportunity from the start. "There will be changes," he said. "But I don't think that we will be putting out a new 15.

"There will be guys who double up and it may be that the guys who double up, maybe they will come from the bench to the starting line-up and maybe there will be a couple who get out there and start again.

"Those are some of the decisions we are now seeing a bit of, there are some guys, who, if we feel like we need to see a bit more of them next week... that we have tried to keep it pretty fluid."

The coach has already indicated that not all of his 46-man squad would see action over the course of the next four weeks and he may seek to have a look at some of his more versatile players in other positions.

With Wales promising to bring their big guns for the return fixture at the Aviva in three weeks' time, the likelihood is that Schmidt will follow suit after discussing his plans with Warren Gatland.

When it comes to interpreting performances, Schmidt said he is putting a large value on the displays in these warm-up games but was not discounting past contributions to the cause as he works towards picking a final panel of 31.

"We just have to adapt as we go along when we see performances and reward performances, and at the same time keeping a context on those performances," he said.

"There are a number of things to balance up in that context and that even brings to light the collective, the cohesions, the combinations that might complement each other."

Schmidt is set to reduce his squad by seven this week, with the likes of Tadhg Furlong, Jack Conan and Craig Gilroy close to the exit door.

"By the time we announce the team for Scotland on Thursday, we may have an idea of another four or five potentially," he said. "If we release some players back to their provinces, Ulster play Leinster and Munster play Connacht and we'll be at those games, and if they don't fit into getting an opportunity with us, we'll still get to see them in those games.

"That way we can cover a little bit more game time and players can get that opportunity to impress in either environment.

"They'll obviously want to impress in our environment because the level will be a little bit more demanding.

"Inevitably there has to be some communication as to how and why a decision might be made.

"Sometimes those decisions are very difficult to make and very tight, so they are not great conversations to be honest and they wouldn't be my favourite part of the job by a long shot.

"But they're part of the job and it's part of the respect I have for the players that they've committed to our programme so far, are working really hard, and the least you can do is make sure that communication is as clear as it can be, as candid as it can be, but probably conciliatory as well, because I know how hard they're working."

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