Joe Schmidt breaks terrible news as Keith Earls could miss remainder of year
On Tuesday, Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby addressed the media and confirmed knocks for Tommy O'Donnell, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan. There was no mention of Keith Earls or Jack McGrath.
On Thursday afternoon, Joe Schmidt named an Ireland team to face South Africa that contained neither Earls or McGrath.
The press briefing that followed this announcement shed more light on injuries to a couple of senior players.
McGrath had not trained for much of last week after suffering a hip injury. The Leinster loosehead was pictured training at Carton House this morning but Schmidt says he expects him to play a part in the series, with Fiji and Argentina up next.
The news on Earls is not so good. Schmidt expressed doubts on his involvement in the remainder of the series and, once there are further scans on his hamstring completed, he may be out as long as six weeks [missing Munster's back-to-back Champions Cup games against Leicester Tigers]. Schmidt commented:
"He picked it up on Tuesday, and it was a surprise to him and us. It's a hamstring injury, and I think it's going not make it certainly a struggle for next week, and potentially the week after. So he will be a doubt for the series at this point.
"We're disappointed and so is he; he was sensational for us in Japan in the summer. Not only his on-field actions but the way he led the young players, that was a another role he had fully embraced in this camp. He's the consummate professional, a class player, that rapid acceleration.
"But what a fantastic chance for Andrew Conway and Darren Sweetnam."
Earls will be a big loss for Ireland as he was in fine form heading into the series but, in Conway, there is a highly rated replacement eager to stake his claim for that green jersey.