Ireland v France Six Nations: Iain Henderson and Rory Best are fit for Les Bleus
Ulster duo Rory Best and Iain Henderson are fit and ready for a return to the Ireland team to face France this weekend.
Both men missed the routine win over Italy in Rome earlier this month, but reported to Carton House last night with a clean bill of health and are expected to regain their places in Joe Schmidt's side to face Les Bleus on Saturday (4.50pm kick-off).
Skipper Best's streak of 51 consecutive Six Nations involvements was broken in Rome thanks to a stomach issue on the eve of the game, but he is ready to take back the number two jersey from debutant Niall Scannell.
Lock Henderson had a low-end hamstring strain, and was not risked against the Azzurri, but should be parachuted straight back into the squad for Ireland's first home game of the championship this weekend.
Schmidt yesterday named the 34-man panel that will prepare in Co Kildare this week and was without Josh van der Flier, Ultan Dillane and Stuart McCloskey.
Ulster centre McCloskey strained a calf in provincial training last week, but could be back to face Zebre on Sunday, while Van der Flier injured a shoulder on Leinster duty against Edinburgh on Friday night.
Dan Leavy impressed in that game and looks set to battle with Peter O’Mahony for a place in the 23, while uncapped wing Andrew Conway is recalled for what seems like a fierce contest for outside back positions after Craig Gilroy’s hat-trick in the Stadio Olimpico, Andrew Trimble’s return to fitness, and Tommy Bowe’s try-scoring outing for Ulster against Glasgow on Saturday.
Dillane got through an hour of Connacht’s win against Newport on Saturday, after which no injury problems were immediately apparent, but Quinn Roux has been called in to compete for lock berths with Henderson, Devin Toner and Donnacha Ryan.
Meanwhile, two former British and Irish Lions captains believe Owen Farrell should be considered as a candidate to lead this summer’s tour to New Zealand, but both ultimately back Alun Wyn Jones for the post.
Brian O’Driscoll and Martin Johnson see world player of the year nominee Farrell, who has developed into a world-class playmaker under Eddie Jones, as a genuine contender as skipper.
But the pair, who between them have been on seven Lions tours, agree that Wales second-row Jones is the outstanding choice for the role.
Johnson sees Farrell as a possibility but England’s World Cup-winning skipper is a big admirer of Jones.
“Owen has obviously been captain of England at the end of games — he will be an important part of the leadership group,” Johnson said.
“A lot can change and he has played very well, but Alun Wyn Jones maybe has his nose in front.”