The Ireland Rugby summer tour of South Africa is only days away and as has been the case with both the 2016 Six Nations and the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has a massive injury headache to contend with.
In addition to the massive loss of captain, Paul O’Connell, Schmidt has had to juggle and blood more new faces than Ireland has seen in years and while this is actually a good thing, it has left Ireland scrambling to fill the gaps left by an injury list of starters that is once again approaching double digits, and which includes
Prop – Cian Healy
the Leinster and Ireland loosehead prop has been missing for much of the last 18 months following neck surgery and persistent knee injuries. now stood down by Leinster, Healy now has the summer months to finally try and regain full fitness and return next season.
Second Row – Peter O’Mahony
The Munster captain suffered a season ending knee injury at last year’s Rugby World Cup. Early hopes were that O’Mahony might return in April, however, this has not been the case and the hope now is that he will line out again next season.
Second Row – Mike McCarthy
McCarthy, like Healy, has been stood down by the IRFU following a concussion injury suffered during Ireland’s Six Nations match with France. McCarthy was given the rest of the season off in order to fully recover.
Flanker – Sean O’Brien
Probably Ireland’s biggest injury concern, O’Brien and his hamstring issues are now entering their third season. Having featured only a handful of times in the past two seasons, the fear is not about when he will return but rather if he will return at all.
Fly Half – Jonathan Sexton
Focus has been on the Leinster and Ireland no.10 this season as he has been on the receiving end of several hard and often borderline illegal tackles, leaving him battered and bruised. An ongoing shoulder problem has now forced Sexton to undergo surgery instead of head to South Africa with the rest of the Irish squad.
Wing – Luke Fitzgerald, Dave Kearney, Tommy Bowe
Probably Ireland’s most unlucky player, Fitzgerald has been sidelined off and on for the past two seasons. Having overcome these persistent injuries and battled his way back into contention during the Pro 12 season, yet another knee injury has forced the Leinster man to pull out of the touring squad this summer.
Brother to Rob, Dave Kearney has also seen his playing time curtailed his playing time this season. Most recent in an injury blighted season, a calf injury has cost him his place on the plane for South Africa.
Bowe has not featured since last year’s Rugby World Cup where a serious knee injury ended the winger’s season early. With rehabilitation ongoing it is hoped the Ulster man will back in time for the new season.
Full Back – Rob Kearney
Having only returned to action for Leinster’s Pro 12 final defeat to Connacht, Kearney, who has suffered numerous injuries this season, has once again been ruled out, this time with a hamstring complaint.
As Ireland attempts to mount a challenge on South African soil and rewrite the record books where Ireland has yet to record an away win to the Springboks, this list of omissions makes for worrying reading and leaves Ireland fans feeling somewhere south of positive.