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Furlong confident of winning fitness race

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Tadgh Furlong says he is confident of being fit in time to face Wales on Saturday week in news that will come as a big boost to the Ireland camp as they assemble in Athlone this evening.

Joe Schmidt hosts a mini-camp in the midlands venue until Friday with around 22 players descending on Buccaneers' Dubarry Park to prepare for the pivotal Six Nations clash.

Ireland's title ambitions have been rocked by the news that Robbie Henshaw will play no further part in the tournament having been forced to get an operation on his damaged shoulder and Leinster have admitted that he is unlikely to be fit in time for their European Champions Cup quarter-final with Saracens.

Furlong suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth minute of Ireland's routine win over Italy last weekend and was replaced, but he believes he is on track to play against Warren Gatland's side and will link up with the squad this evening.

"It feels really good, it just tightened up a little bit and in that situation you just err on the side of caution," he said in an interview with the Irish Independent, which will appear in full on Saturday.

"I'm pretty confident, more than pretty confident of being available for Wales.

"I'm going to Athlone tomorrow; with it you probably need a small bit of strengthening up work but nothing overly too worrying."

Despite Schmidt offering an optimistic note on his fitness, Sean O'Brien will not travel to Athlone this week and is unlikely to be fit in time for the Welsh clash.

Belfast Telegraph

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