O'Driscoll and Stringer ruled out
Friday, February 9, 2007
Having witnessed the Lazarus-like return of Shane Horgan from injury and marvelled at the miracles of modern medicine during the week, there was an element of shock this afternoon when it emerged that Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll and scrumhalf Peter Stringer will not feature in rugby's debut at Croke Park against France on Sunday.
Eddie O'Sullivan was forthright in his delivery beneath the Davin Stand (Canal End). "It's not right," he said of the captain's hamstring. "He trained for 40 minutes on it and at the end it started to tighten up again, so, discretion is the better part of valour in these situations."
"Both Brian and Peter are obviously very, very disappointed because they are going to miss the occasion on Sunday, but we've got to take emotion out of these decisions and make sensible calls. It was a good medical decision and we've got to live by that, that's what we've always done," he added.
Horgan's return makes this a little easier for O'Sullivan to deal with, of course. The team practiced without the two doubtfuls all week and that means that Horgan has been training at 12, Gordon D'Arcy in O'Driscoll's spot at outside centre and Geordan Murphy on the wing.
Isaac Boss will cover for Stringer, whose cracked bone in his hand threatened to hamper his delivery. Wasps scrumhalf Eoin Reddan and Ulster's Andrew Trimble are on the bench.
There are no more concerns over Denis Leamy after the number eight had a abscess lanced at the start of the week and Jamie Heaslip will therefore depart the matchday squad, while Neil Best stays among the replacements.
O'Sullivan is confident O'Driscoll and Stringer will both be available in two weeks time to face England. Today's calls were close, but the risk that an early injury on Sunday may have stretched the bench, or worse still, ruled either player out for the remainder of the tournament, was not worth taking.
"I know it would have been a big gamble, both of them could have started," said O'Sullivan. "If they re-injure themselves, particularly in Brian's case with a hamstring . . . the odds are that it would be a much worse tear than a grade one, which could out him out for the rest of the Six Nations. I think in that context it becomes a very simple decision to make."
The introduction of Horgan only changes the dynamics a "tad", according to the coach. Horgan is a typical inside centre and D'Arcy is no stranger to 13. The coach even went as far as to suggest that there may be a silver lining. Winning without O'Driscoll against a side that has targetted this game as their defining challenge of the tournament, could do wonders for confidence.
"In some ways it's a different challenge for the team," he says. "If we can win the game on Sunday without Brian we could be a better team for it."
Boss, as O'Sullivan pointed out, will undoubtedly threaten the fringes a lot more and bring a "robustness" around the breakdown. "It's good for Isaac that he has played in the autumn, he has a full test . . . off the back of the autumn series."
"In that respect I'm very happy about that, that we have got somebody who has been there before."
Of growing concern to O'Sullivan is the well-being of lock Malcolm O'Kelly, who yesterday pulled out of the Ireland A squad to face England tonight. O'Kelly had been due to captain the side but a "chronic knee injury" that has caused him to pull up all too often in recent weeks, struck again.
"It's our worst fears confirmed," said O'Sullivan. "He went to Belfast and he broke down again. Unfortunately for Malcolm, we don't know where [the injury] is at the moment.
"I know he's very upset, because he was excited that he was going to captain the A team. I think Malcolm has never captained a team in a professional game.
O'Sullivan is clearly concerned for the long-term future of his most capped international, because "he has a lot of miles on the clock" and injury like this is "never a good thing".
Ireland: G Dempsey (Leinster); G Murphy (Leicester) , G D'Arcy (Leinster), S Horgan (Leinster), D Hickie (Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), I Boss (Ulster); M Horan (Munster), R Best (Ulster), J Hayes (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets), D Wallace (Munster), D Leamy (Munster).
Replacements: J Flannery (Munster), S Best (Ulster), N Best (Ulster), M O'Driscoll (Munster), E Reddan (Wasps), P Wallace (Ulster), A Trimble (Ulster).
France: C Poitrenaud (Toulouse); V Clerc (Toulouse), D Marty (Perpignan), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), C Dominici (Stade Francais); D Skrela (Stade Francais), P Mignoni (Clermont Auvergne); S Marconnet (Stade Francais), R Ibanez (Wasps, capt), P De Villiers (Stade Francais), P Pape (Castres), L Nallet (Castres), S Betsen (Biarritz), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), S Chabal (Sale Sharks).
Replacements: S Bruno (Sale Sharks), O Milloud (Bourgoin), J Thion (Biarritz), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin), D Yachvili (Biarritz), L Beauxis (Stade Francais), C Heymans (Toulouse).
Trimble centre murphy ful back and demsey out. Hickey and horgan on the wings. Def should hasve horgan on the wing. The defence for demsey is that if horgan was on the wing the back 3 would be very used to playing with eachother for lenster
BOD is a huge loss alright. Not as worried as I would have been 3 years ago. I still think the fact that we have darcy is huge. Murphys speed on the wing will be handy especially against Dominici. Could use murphys height aswell against him. Wondering have the odds for Ireland changed
To be honest, I don't think we stand much of a chance. Even with a full-team, even in poor form, the French have our number. This will be one of Eddie O'Sullivan's greatest achievements if we pull it off.
(Jesus, referring to the rugger team as 'we', I feel vaguely nauseous)