Trio of worrying injuries could force Joe Schmidt to shuffle his deck
Keith Earls may yet be able to play through the pain barrier but there are genuine concerns over two Irish forwards.
All of a sudden, Ireland have gone from heavily stacked second- and back-row units to looking to a man who was not in the original squad and a another that has played only 70 minutes since last November.
Ireland posted a squad fitness update on Monday afternoon and the headline news was a 'facial injury' for CJ Stander, who is understood to have fractured his cheekbone in the 32-20 loss to England. He will miss the Scotland and, mot likely, Italy games.
Elsewhere in the IRFU release, fans will scan thoroughly for mentions of Keith Earls and Devin Toner, who were both withdrawn with injuries. Earls has a hip-pointer injury that hindered him at the weekend but he should still have a chance of facing Scotland. For Toner, it may be a matter of waiting and hoping.
The injury concerns, and how Ireland may line up against Scotland, were discussed by Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble [from 40:00 below] on the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby.
Devin Toner came into Ireland's Guinness Six Nations opener having played 211 minutes since the November win over New Zealand. The Leinster lock made three starts but was out of action for a few weeks before returning for the Champions Cup win over Wasps.
He did his job well enough, in terms of claiming restarts and calling/claiming lineouts, but he was not as effective around the breakdown as he has often been in the past. Toner usually clears out beyond the ball - forcing the offside line back a metre or so - but England often left men out of rucks and negated his rangy influence.
Toner's game came to an end on 56 minutes when he landing awkwardly on his ankle after clutching onto an English restart.
Toner was slow to pick himself up and he hobbled about on the right flank until a scrum was called by referee Jerome Garces.
The 6-foot-10 lock limped to the sideline as Connacht's Quinn Roux took his place. Joe Schmidt later confirmed Toner had 'rolled his ankle' and would be looked at by the medics on Sunday.
Roux did a decent job when he came on and, with Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson both sidelined, Schmidt may turn to him for the visit to Edinburgh to take on a Scotland side that started their championship by beating Italy. Barry Murphy commented:
"Dev Toner if he’s out I would say Quinn Roux would be straight in, and then Ultan Dillane on the bench."
28-year-old Roux has nine Ireland caps [4 starts] and last played from the get-go in the November win over Italy. He combined impressively with Beirne that day and women's international Jenny Murphy says he is in great form.
"I saw him against Sale Sharks in the Challenge Cup a couple of weeks ago and he was cracking," she said. "He was man of the match and was really good at getting around the park. He was [defending] on the wing at one stage, against Chris Ashton, and he got the tackle in."
Considering that Roux missed out on the initial squad, before Beirne was ruled out, a start against the Scots would be a rapid ascension, and a big opportunity in a World Cup year. Trimble and Barry Murphy suggested Sean O'Brien, rather than Jack Conan, would be favourite to step in for Stander. Jenny Murphy added:
"Yeah, Seanie at 8. He’s such a smart player as well. He’s not just like big, strong, like he’s got everything you want a back-row to have as well. And you hear from camp that he’s got a big coaching head as well."
"He came on the pitch and he was giving a lot of messages and he was speaking a lot," Barry Murphy noted. "He was quite vocal, which I thought was great – they needed it at that point. So, great to see him back. He had a huge impact."
POTENTIAL IRELAND XV FOR SCOTLAND
1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Quinn Roux
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Sean O'Brien
9. Conor Murray
10. Johnny Sexton
11. Jacob Stockdale
12. Bundee Aki
13. Garry Ringrose
14. Keith Earls/Andrew Conway
15. Robbie Henshaw