Belfast Telegraph

Others must step up in wake of injuries: Easterby

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ahead of Saturday's clash against the Springboks (5.30pm kick-off), Ireland are managing a number of minor injury concerns.

In-form Leinster number eight Jack Conan and flankers Tommy O'Donnell and Dan Leavy all sat out training at Carton House yesterday, with Munsterman O'Donnell requiring a scan on a shoulder problem.

While forwards coach Simon Easterby confirmed yesterday that none of the trio are thought to be carrying serious issues, their absence this weekend could leave the squad short of numbers in the back-row where Jamie Heaslip has remained out since the Six Nations.

"You lose a huge amount of experience," said Easterby of Heaslip's injury woes.

"You lose probably one of the most professional sportsmen that many of us would have worked with, certainly as a coach.

"He is incredibly dedicated. He has certain ways of doing things and that is to his massive advantage in terms of getting himself right, in terms of his body.

"He knows what he needs to do to prepare himself to play big matches for Leinster and for Ireland. It is a big void to fill.

"What you lose in not having Jamie in, you gain from other guys having those experiences, trying to step up and emulate some of the stuff Jamie can do and has done for a long time.

"We're really hopeful we'll gain experience and some valuable time with those players who are covering that eight position.

"Then, come the new year, we'll have a fit and fresh Jamie Heaslip back available as well, which will be great for us moving forward into the next couple of seasons.

"He leaves a void, but there is plenty of leadership that will step up in his place.

"It also leaves opportunity for others to step into that role and find their feet in the squad."

Since last time out against Japan in June, Schmidt has also, of course, regained his British and Irish Lions, four of whom can play in the back-row.

"There's plenty we can learn from players with those experiences," added Easterby.

"The guys have had those opportunities to travel to New Zealand, to work with other players, to work with others coaches.

"We are forever trying to find that little edge, that 1-2% that can make us a better team, a better unit.

"Certainly from myself and (scrum coach) Greg Feek's perspective, it is invaluable that they have been away and come back."

Ulster's Kieran Treadwell, meanwhile, will arrive in camp today after playing in his province's win over Southern Kings in South Africa last weekend.

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