Headaches for Andy Farrell with question marks over fitness of 10 key Irish players
Andy Farrell is sweating on the fitness of 10 of his 37-man Ireland squad ahead of the opening game of the Bank of Ireland Autumn Nations Series on Saturday fortnight.
The coach yesterday confirmed that James Lowe, Keith Earls, Andrew Conway and Iain Henderson join Rónan Kelleher and Will Connors in missing out on the window with injury as Bundee Aki is absent through suspension.
Ireland take on South Africa, Fiji and Australia in November, while an additional 12 players have been called up to supplement the squad for the ‘A’ fixture against a high-quality All Blacks XV on the eve of the Springboks game.
Farrell has picked full-back Hugo Keenan (abdominal and knee) and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park (hamstring) despite their not playing a minute this season, while Jacob Stockdale (ankle), Craig Casey (groin), Tadhg Beirne (groin), James Ryan (knee), Kieran Treadwell (chest), Ryan Baird (head), Jack Conan (back) and Josh van der Flier (ankle) are all currently getting treatment at their provinces.
Farrell is also acutely aware of the risk of injury this weekend, with Leinster taking on Munster at the Aviva Stadium, Ulster away at the Springbok-laden Sharks and Connacht hosting Scarlets in the United Rugby Championship.
He gathers his squad on Monday, with Johnny Sexton once again captaining the squad.
Ireland have also confirmed that they will take on Italy and England in Dublin before next year’s World Cup, while they are also expected to face Samoa in France before the tournament gets under way next autumn.