Injuries force squad naming delay
Ireland have delayed their team announcement for Saturday's clash with Italy by 48 hours as they contend with an ever-lengthening injury list that has placed Brian O'Driscoll's participation in doubt.
O'Driscoll sustained a lacerated ear and dead leg in the 13-13 draw with France, but it is the concussion he incurred at the Aviva Stadium that threatens his involvement in what could potentially be his final RBS 6 Nations match.
Ireland will now name their team for the climax to their championship at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday.
"I asked Brian why he wanted to tackle Vincent Debaty twice - I thought he had more smarts than that," assistant coach Les Kiss said. "He's a warrior who puts his body on the line week in, week out. We know that. It's amazing what he pulls from his reserves. I imagine he'll do everything to be available for Italy. He's talking as though he'll be there"
O'Driscoll's centre partner Luke Marshall was also concussed against France and is similarly being observed under International Rugby Board concussion guidelines.
Fly-half Jonathan Sexton will play a full role in training this week and is available for selection, but wing Fergus McFadden has been ruled out for between three to six weeks with a fractured rib. The loss of McFadden has been offset by the return of Craig Gilroy from a groin strain, while scrum-half Conor Murray has made a swift improvement from his knee problem.
Lock Donnacha Ryan absorbed another bang to his shoulder and will only take part in modified training, while substitute scrum-half Eoin Reddan undergoes surgery on his fractured fibula and ankle ligament damage on Monday.
Centre Gordon D'Arcy and wing Simon Zebo had already been ruled out of the Six Nations from an early stage, while lock Paul O'Connell, wing Tommy Bowe and flanker Stephen Ferris will have played no part.
Team manager Mick Kearney blamed the injury crisis on misfortune rather than any underlying trend.
"The injury run has been absolutely extraordinary and reminded me of that quote, 'grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented'," Kearney said. "There isn't an underlying issue. The majority of injuries are soft tissue, which can happen. We've just been unlucky. There's no trend and you can't look at it and say we're doing something wrong."