Joe Schmidt has refused to rule out Robbie Henshaw even from Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Wales, despite the centre suffering a suspected dislocated shoulder against Italy.
Ireland boss Schmidt remains hopeful that Henshaw could yet shake off his injury, though the British and Irish Lions star’s tournament could well be over.
Henshaw ran in two of Ireland’s eight tries in Saturday’s 56-19 win over Italy in Dublin, but required oxygen and left the field in a sling after being injured in the act of crossing for his second score.
Tadhg Furlong suffered a hamstring injury after just three minutes of Ireland’s comfortable win, but Schmidt hopes the Leinster prop could also be ready to face Wales in Dublin on February 24.
“We’ll know more after Robbie’s scan tomorrow, he looked in a fair bit of discomfort when he came off but what’s promising is the fact that he was more comfortable later on,” said Schmidt.
“What’s not promising was the degree of discomfort he was in at the time.
“We’ll have an update hopefully later once he’s had that scan.
“Robbie is superb defensively, and on the attack as well. I think Robbie is a class player.
“Tadhg Furlong just felt a tightening on deceleration. We’d be hopeful he would still be okay in two weeks’ time.”
Garry Ringrose retains a slim chance of recovering from ankle trouble in time to face Wales, with Schmidt hopeful the Leinster centre could return to offset Henshaw’s possible absence.
“Garry’s making really good progress, next weekend might be just one weekend too soon, but he’s not far away,” said Schmidt.
“But again it might be the weekend after, and for him to come back straight off an injury lay-off to play against Wales, that would be a tough call, but it’s a call we’d be happy to make based on Garry’s previous contributions.
“He’s such an intelligent player. He does add value when he comes into the side.
“He could be another option if Robbie Henshaw is unavailable, as we suspect he potentially will be.”
Asked to assess Ireland’s tile chances, Schmidt replied: “You do feel that you’ve a chance when you can get those first two wins, especially with an away win first up.
“We haven’t lost a Six Nations game at home in the five years I’ve been involved.
“There’s a real benchmark there that we can hopefully defend.
“We probably had a couple of knock-backs injury-wise today. So it’s a bit of a wait and see, really.
“But if you’d said to me two weeks ago you’d have nine points and a 39-point differential, I’d have bitten your hand off.
“We do feel that we’ve gained a bit of confidence that we’re heading in the right direction.
“Wales will be a whole different scenario. They are very attacking as a defensive side and they squeeze you and force errors.”
Italy boss Conor O’Shea admitted his Azzurri squad need to boost their fitness to challenge the world’s top sides.
“We knew they were going to hold the ball, because they don’t think we’re fit enough – and they’re right,” said O’Shea.
“We are much fitter than we were; much, much better than we were, but we’re not at the level that we need.
“There’s a reason we’re not number two or three in the world. And that’s the reason.
“When we held the ball, we looked good. We’ll just keep moving forward, forward, forward.”
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