Rugby World Cup: Crocked O’Brien a doubt for Ireland
With just over two weeks to the start of their World Cup campaign, flanker Sean O'Brien has emerged as a major injury concern for Ireland.
The European player of the year is understood to have sustained a heavy knee injury in training which places him in doubt for Ireland's opening clash with the US on September 11 and rules him out of the final warm-up international against England at Lansdowne Road this Saturday.
Declan Kidney names his side to face the English today, seeking a first win this month after defeats to Scotland and France (twice). The Ireland coach could make several changes to the side that lost 26-22 to the French at home last weekend with Stephen Ferris, impressive on his return off the bench on Saturday, ready to slot into O'Brien's No 6 jersey.
Ronan O'Gara (pictured) could get the nod for the No 10 jersey alongside scrum-half Eoin Reddan while openside David Wallace and winger Tommy Bowe are set to make their delayed returns to action.
Geordan Murphy, called up to the World Cup squad after injury to Felix Jones, is in the mix for the No 15 jersey while Keith Earls may also be considered for a midfield role next to Gordon D'Arcy.
If Cian Healy has recovered sufficiently from his bruised foot, he could start at loose-head next to hooker Jerry Flannery, who has been impressive off the bench this month following his lengthy absence with a calf injury. The bench will feature Jonathan Sexton, Fergus McFadden and Conor Murray.
IRELAND (possible): G Murphy; T Bowe, K Earls, G D'Arcy, A Trimble; R O'Gara, E Reddan; C Healy, J Flannery, M Ross; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip.