Wednesday 12 December 2018

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No rest as Ireland prepare for USA

Wednesday, 21st November, 2018 3:51pm

There will be a different look to the Ireland team this week as they play their final Test game of the November series in the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.

Fresh from their win over New Zealand last week, the first time that feat has ever been accomplished on home soil, a number of players have rejoined their provinces this week which allows the opportunity for a number of fringe players to make their mark against the USA.

Man of the match Peter O'Mahony suffered a dead leg in the win and his training is being monitored this week while Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Rob Kearney, James Ryan, Jordan Larmour and Kieran Marmion have all returned to their provincial teams this week.

Scrum half Marmion is facing a battle to be fit for the Six Nations campaign after he was replaced in the 59th minute last Saturday. The 26 year old is set to undergo surgery for an ankle issue and will be out of action until at least February.

Delivering a squad update this week, Ireland's strength and conditioning coach Richie Murphy said: “Kieran has been carrying an injury for the last number of weeks, he's been fine and been able to get through the games. It's obviously not great for Connaught cause he's going to miss out for a few weeks but it was felt that it's the right time to get him fixed up and ready for what's to come in the new year.”

Speaking about the incoming changes to the team, Murphy said: “Everyone that is in here is ready to train and play at the weekend. Obviously there'll be some changes within the team because of the guys that have been released back but it's great opportunity for us to see some of the guys who have helped prepare the team over the last couple of weeks get an opportunity to play.

“The guys were delighted with beating the All Blacks but in this place things move on very quickly and there was a review of things that we felt we could have done better, a review of things we thought we had done well then that's parked and we move on to the USA. Guys who obviously will come in to the side have a lot to prove for themselves so the page turn is very quickly in here.”

He continued: “The guys that play on Saturday obviously have last Saturday to compete with, it's their last opportunity in the green jersey in this period so they'll want to go out and leave that in a really good place going in to what will be a busy period for them over December. There's a nice buzz around training, the focus has definitely switched, we're in a situation here where you don't get to sit back and enjoy what's happened for too long, you've just got to move on to the next game.”

As for last Saturday's historic win, 26 year old second row Iain Henderson had one word to some up the occasion – incredible.

“I don't know it how it couldn't have ranked up there but it was incredible, with an incredible atmosphere and just an incredible experience all round.

“The overcoming of the challenge, because it was a great challenge, it was always going to be an incredibly difficult feat to overcome having never beat them (the All Blacks) in Dublin. That was always in the back of our minds, but to overcome that, I found that the most satisfying thing.”

Having won the Grand Slam this year, and with Leinster having won the Champion's Cup, the talent pool at Ireland's disposal has never been higher. Competition for places for Ireland's title defence next spring, will be at all all time high. Henderson continued: “If you look over the past number of seasons, there hasn't been anyone we haven't been able to beat and that's excluding last Saturday. We knew in the back of our heads that we were able to do it – you know if you put in the hard work, that you will get the rewards for it. In terms of the expectation going forward, if our results match the amount of effort the boys put in, not just the 23 on the pitch but the whole squad and the management, I think we'd be happy.

“Andy Farrell has got a real good defensive strategy in place and that's something that he'll be really proud of, his achievement at the weekend. Being able to defend among a team who are working hard for each other and being able to hold out the All Blacks, knowing how competitive and how dangerous a team they are, we will take great confidence in that and we'll look forward to being challenged again by big times and I think that's the only time you do get tested, in big Test matches.”

Meanwhile Munster, and Ireland, have received a huge boost this week with Conor Murray returning to full team training this week ahead of their PRO14 game against Zebre in Italy at the weekend.

Murray, who has been suffering from a neck injury, has not played competitively since Ireland's summer tour in Australia and watched last week's win from the stands in the Aviva Stadium.

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