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Marmion faces Six Nations sweat after injury blow



Put in a shift: Kieran Marmion impressed against All Blacks

Put in a shift: Kieran Marmion impressed against All Blacks

Put in a shift: Kieran Marmion impressed against All Blacks

Last Thursday as Kieran Marmion took his seat around a group of journalists, he allayed any fears surrounding the ankle injury he picked up the previous weekend against Argentina.

Marmion was clearly struggling during the game but he hobbled on through the pain before being called ashore shortly after. The scrum-half recovered sufficiently enough to take his place in the starting XV to face the All Blacks and he was certain that he wouldn't have any further problems.

"It's an issue I have had before but it's nothing I can't run off, I have no doubt it will be absolutely fine this weekend," Marmion insisted.

The opportunities in which to get a chance to start in the big games are few and far between, so Marmion knew that missing the New Zealand clash was simply not an option.

Yesterday's news that he was facing up to three months out, with surgery required for the ankle injury, highlights Marmion's commitment to the cause.

"I think the ankle was pretty okay in that it was stable," assistant coach Richie Murphy explained. "The physios could get him into a situation where he was very happy. There was never a worry when he was going onto the pitch that he was carrying that.

"But it is something that needed to be looked at after the fact. Starting those big games, you can see what he brings to a team.

"His work ethic, his defence, his speed to get around the park is really good. He can't play the game like Conor Murray. We don't want him to. He needs to be himself and I think he has been over the last few weeks."

Marmion took his chance over the last two games in Murray's absence, which in Joe Schmidt's eyes will have cemented his place as Ireland's back-up scrum-half.

The Connacht player was never going to play against USA this weekend, with Luke McGrath and John Cooney set to come into the equation, but this is a major setback for Marmion.

He is now in a race to be fit for the start of the Six Nations and, given how high his confidence would have been following his performances against Argentina and New Zealand, Connacht would have reaped the rewards over the coming months.

Neither of Marmion's displays were flawless however, and Murphy, who works closely with the half-backs, has already outlined one key area of his game that he needs to improve.

"Kieran, his box-kicking is a different style to someone like Conor Murray, who can put the ball as high as he wants - Kieran can't do that," Murphy said.

"The tendency is to kick the ball shorter than Conor. The ball doesn't need to be in the air as long. Some of our running lines are being impeded coming through to get into the contest. I would say it is definitely an area of his game that he has to keep on working on and improve."

Ireland ended up benefiting from Murray's absence and, given the game time that Marmion, McGrath and Cooney got, they will be all better for it in the long run.

"It has been a great opportunity for us not to have Conor because you've got to see a lot more of Kieran Marmion, a lot more of Luke McGrath. John Cooney has also been in camp for the last couple of weeks. We might get an opportunity to see him this week.

"That way it has been a real positive for the group, just not a positive for Conor Murray because he missed out. He should be coming back nice and fresh and I think he's going to be involved this weekend."

Belfast Telegraph