Ireland to unleash 'physical animal' and 'brute of a lad' that has been 'fairly melting lads' all season
It was good to see Cian Healy and Mike Ross back in Ireland gear but only one player was stopped for a photo request.
The eagle eyed Irish fan zeroed in on Johnny Sexton quicker that an over-zealous French lock and got her man. Sexton stopped, smiled, readjusted his bag and carried on.
There were no signs of shoulder damage from the coming together.
'A pretty physical animal'
Mike McCarthy's horrendous concussion, sustained against France, has left the squad short of a powerful, athletic lock.
Step forward Ultan Dillane, Ireland's 24th man for the opener against Wales and now set to occupy the proper, padded bench at Twickenham.
The 20-year-old from Tralee is enjoying his breakthrough season at Connacht and is such an exciting prospect that he has been advanced through the ranks. This afternoon, Devin Toner and Easterby both sang his praises. Said Toner:
"He's very promising; a big brute of a lad. He's a good line-out option; very explosive and... what I have seen of him [for Connacht], he's been fairly melting lads as well so if he gets a chance hopefully he will take it."
Easterby added, "We have kept pretty close tabs on him since the World Cup and he has done very well. Speaking to Jimmy Duffy and Pat Lam, they have been really happy with his progression.
"He is a pretty physical animal. We have seen him attack and we have seen him defend. He hits rucks and scrummages well. He is very powerful in the gym. He is the sort of player who, if we can hone his skills and his awareness at this level, then he is going to have a bright future."
That future may start at Test level on Saturday.
Don't we all feel 85% fit on Mondays?
This was the World Cup all over again.
Jared Payne is clearly not 100% fit. He is carrying an injury and trying to soldier on.
He probably won't make it into Joe Schmidt's matchday 23, named just after 1pm on Thursday. Payne, we were told, did 85% of training on Monday. He was 85% ready.
Today? He did no pitch work and was in with the physio. We don't know what that percentage is but it certainly is not 85%.
The opinion of the vast majority of us in the media is that Stuart McCloskey should get the call. You may get a sense of that from the amount of times you see his name in headlines and pushed forward into the midfield discussion.
Schmidt, Simon Easterby & co. may see things differently. Asked if he would have confidence in McCloskey coming in for Payne, Easterby replied 'Yea' before quickly putting other names forward:
"Jared has been excellent in that position at 13, in attack but really in defence he has been really dominant in that area.... We have other players that can fill in in that position. Earlsy [Keith Earls] has played there and Luke Marshall has played at 13 as well."
If McCloskey is to feature, it will have to be at inside centre. So, are Ireland open to shifting Henshaw away from that first receiver role?
"Robbie has shown himself to be fairly adaptable... he is well able to adapt and that’s what we have to be when we have a few injuries.
"There is a difference defensively at 13 as opposed to 12, but we would feel comfortable that whatever combination we go with has time to gel."
Surely it will be McCloskey-Henshaw against England. Objectively and subjectively, it makes the most sense.
No Reddan, no tries
Just the one try in two games so far and Ireland are once again having to fend of criticism of their attacking game-plan, or lack thereof.
Scrum-half Eoin Reddan has been part of Irish sides that have carved opponents up and ones that struggled. He is not expecting to get across the English whitewash without earning it the hardest possible way:
"We have a good plan that if we execute well, hopefully tries will come. At the same time if they try to stop us from scoring by giving penalties away, we'll take them too.
"Not just England, but if any team are stopping you by giving away penalties there's not much you can do except kick the ball over the bar and trust the referee to referee it. We will create opportunities, but that's no guarantee we'll score [tries] because how they respond is a big part of that."
Expect a 12-9 scoreline so.