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porter out Paul O’Connell laments big injury blow ahead of Six Nations showdown with England

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Forwards coach Paul O'Connell, right, and national scrum coach John Fogarty during the Ireland open training session at the Aviva Stadium. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Forwards coach Paul O'Connell, right, and national scrum coach John Fogarty during the Ireland open training session at the Aviva Stadium. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Forwards coach Paul O'Connell, right, and national scrum coach John Fogarty during the Ireland open training session at the Aviva Stadium. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Paul O’Connell has admitted the Andrew Porter’s enforced absence from Ireland’s Six Nations assault is a “a big loss”.

Amidst fears that the loss of two-thirds of the first-choice front-row could impinge on Ireland’s title ambitions, the forwards coach did admit that the country’s squad depth is an issue but also expressed confidence that Cian Healy and Dave Kilcoyne can adequately fill in.

O’Connell also insisted that Ireland will not be deterred from their enterprising approach as they bid to conquer Twickenham in nine days’ time.

“There'll be no adjustments to the game plan really,” said O’Connell, for whom Cian Healy and Dave Kilcoyne are the current loose-head candidates.

“He's a big loss, he's I suppose, a modern prop forward. He's an excellent scrummager on both sides of the scrum.

“Also his ball-carrying, his defending for us, he’s really good poacher, a great man for turnovers, getting penalties for us at the ruck.

“He's no-nonsense to coach. He just gets on with it, he's very easy to coach, easy to deal with so he'll be a big loss.

“He's a big loss but the way we've been training, and we saw it in the Argentina game in the autumn when lads starting dropping out in the warm-up, and we lost James Ryan before half-time.

“A lot of the changes have been seamless enough and been easy enough and hopefully it continues that way.

“Obviously Cian and Dave Kilcoyne have been with us at the moment and we'll have a look at the guys over the weekend and see if we can bring somebody in.”

Aside from the international and Lions’ tourist Jack McGrath, benched for Ulster as he slowly returns from long-term injury, Irish management will have slim pickings to choose from, with Andrew Warwick (Ulster), Josh Wycherley (Munster), Jordan Duggan (Connacht) and, most likely, Peter Dooley (Leinster) starting for their provinces.

When tighthead Tom O’Toole was scratched from the squad last week, Ireland did not call in a replacement; they cannot afford not to do so now.

“I don’t know if there will be a couple of props but certainly one anyway. We just want to see how they go with their games at the weekend.

““We don’t want to be losing anyone, we don’t have the strength in depth that other teams have and we don’t want to lose our big men, either.

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“Andrew is one of our bigger guys which is pretty important for us and there is no doubt that if you are starting, you probably get a few more reps than the other guys; you are probably a wee bit further down the track than the other guys are in terms of your knowledge.

“Cian has been back playing; he has been great. Dave Kilcoyne has not had as much rugby played but he has played as well; when we have trained, like against the U20s and in those Wednesday training sessions, we have been very fast and physical.

“It has been at match intensity, if not a little bit higher, and players have got great benefit from that. As well as that, it is 15 against 15, so the guys have a lot more rugby under their belts than they maybe their match minutes for Ireland would have you believe.

“There is no doubt a guy like Andrew Porter – he is first choice at the moment – is a loss; but it is a great opportunity for the guys, for Cian, for Dave.

“Like, Dave Kilcoyne started the game against England 12 months ago, he went off quite early; Cian came on and had a really good game, so there is great experience there.

“It is a great opportunity for these guys as well. They are real enthusiastic guys and they want the opportunity to play. So we are very happy with what we have behind Andrew Porter.”

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