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Best battling for fitness ahead of Aviva battle

By Nick Purewal

Ireland team manager Michael Kearney has admitted it is "difficult to say" whether Rory Best will face South Africa after picking up a calf problem.

Head coach Joe Schmidt will be desperate for Ulster hooker Best to be fit for Saturday's Springboks clash in Dublin given Ireland's raft of front-row injuries.

Best went through "modified work" in training yesterday, with his progress to be monitored throughout the week.

Ireland must face the big-scrummaging Springboks without props Cian Healy, Marty Moore and Nathan White, while tighthead Mike Ross is still fighting for fitness after groin trouble.

"Rory Best has a tight calf that will be monitored all week," said Kearney. "He will go through modified work and will be monitored as the week goes on.

"Mike Ross went through some running and multi-directional work as well as static team work on Friday, and will be introduced to full training over the next few days. He will be closely monitored but the prognosis is positive and we are reasonably confident he will be available for selection."

Johnny Sexton is expected to train fully all week despite suffering "tightness in his thigh", with Kearney confirming Racing Metro agreed to limit his French Top 14 action to 40 minutes at the weekend.

Gordon D'Arcy, Rob Kearney and Jack McGrath are all expected back in full training this week, while Stuart Olding and Tommy Bowe have come successfully through concussion protocols and will be available too.

"We don't have a concern over Johnny, he will be expected to play a full part in the sessions over the week," said Kearney.

"It had been prearranged that he would come off at the weekend, he was always going to play a limited part in the Racing game."

England's second row resources for Saturday's autumn opener against New Zealand at Twickenham could be further depleted by the possible unavailability of Dave Attwood.

Hours after Joe Launchbury was ruled out of the entire QBE Series with a neck problem, head coach Stuart Lancaster revealed that Attwood's fiancée Bridget is expecting their first child.

Attwood is due to start alongside Courtney Lawes, but Lancaster has been forced to draw up an alternative plan with uncapped George Kruis and Graham Kitchener placed on standby.

Belfast Telegraph

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