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Ireland will remain patient as Eoin Reddan begins Six Nations fitness race

By Nick Purewal

Ireland chiefs remain hopeful that Eoin Reddan will beat his medial knee ligament strain in time to face Italy in the Six Nations opener in Rome.

The Leinster scrum-half damaged his knee in Saturday's 20-20 Champions Cup draw with Wasps, and now faces a race against time to be ready to take on Italy on Saturday, February 7.

Munster scrum-half Conor Murray is "scheduled to have further scans this week" on the disc problem in his neck that also threatens to rule him out of Ireland's opening Six Nations clash.

Leinster number eight Jamie Heaslip is carrying a shoulder problem, and will not take part in contact work in Ireland training this week.

"Eoin strained medial ligaments in his knee and is being rehabbed in an effort to be fit for the first game of the Six Nations," read an Ireland statement.

Head coach Joe Schmidt's 46-man training squad convened at the Carton House base yesterday to start preparations for their Six Nations title defence in earnest.

Munster lock Dave Foley was unable to throw himself into proceedings, as he suffered ligament damage to his wrist in the weekend's 65-10 hammering of Sale Sharks.

"Scans have confirmed ligament damage in Dave's wrist and he will have a surgical consultation this week," read the Ireland statement.

"Conor (Murray) is scheduled to have further scans this week.

"Jamie's (Heaslip) shoulder continues to recover, he will be rested from contact this week."

Ireland confirmed that Connacht centre Robbie Henshaw is fit to train after ankle trouble, in one piece of news that will be a big boost to boss Schmidt.

The 21-year-old is likely to prove a mainstay of Ireland's Six Nations campaign now that his fitness doubt has been resolved.

Connacht's Kieran Marmion is at least one scrum-half fit to train this week, but Schmidt's determination to have Reddan in action in Rome is clear given Ireland have tasked their medics with aiming to fast-track his return to fitness.

Ireland will already be without British and Irish Lions fly-half Johnny Sexton for their Stadio Flaminio clash, with the Racing Metro man still completing a 12-week lay-off after four concussions in 12 months.

Schmidt will not want to be without Sexton's Lions half-back partner Murray, but should the Munster playmaker fail to recover from neck trouble he will certainly want to call on Reddan's vast experience.

Jones’ call stuns Welsh

Wales centre Scott Williams admits he was surprised by the international retirement of British and Irish Lions prop Adam Jones.

Jones announced his retirement from international rugby on Saturday night after winning 95 Wales caps and playing in five Tests for the Lions.

The 33-year-old Blues prop had been left out of Wales coach Warren Gatland’s 34-man RBS Six Nations training squad, which followed his omission from the autumn international series earlier this season.

But, as the Wales players assembled at their Vale of Glamorgan training base yesterday ahead of the Six Nations opener with England in Cardiff on February 6, Williams summed up the mood of shock in the Welsh camp at the international retirement of the tight-head prop.

“I was a little bit surprised but Adam’s been a world-class prop over the last couple of years,” Williams said.

“He’s done a lot for the country. It’s obviously his personal decision but he’s still got a lot left in his career.”

Gatland opted for current number one Samson Lee, plus Aaron Jarvis and Scott Andrews as his tight-head prop options in the Six Nations, but did leave the door open for Jones last week by saying he would be in the frame if injuries struck.

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