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Ireland feared for Conor Murray's eye after kick

By Ruairi O’Connor

Joe Schmidt has revealed that Ireland's management feared that Conor Murray may have suffered damage to his eye in the incident involving Mike Brown in Saturday's defeat to England.

The Ireland scrum-half received eight stitches to the corner of his eye, but escaped any lasting damage, after Brown's boot came into contact with his face during a second-half ruck.

The England full-back yesterday escaped any sanction for the action that led Schmidt to call on World Rugby to address the issue of kicking at the ball in rucks.

With Murray expected to recover in time to face Italy on Saturday week, Ireland have no fresh injury worries and should welcome Jared Payne back.

"The good news with Conor is there is no damage to the actual eye, which is what we feared at the time," Schmidt said.

"He has got eight stitches in the corner of the eye, but hopefully will be back training tomorrow without contact. His eye is closed over with the inflammation and bruising, but there is nothing too damaging. Jared Payne is back running and expected to train fully tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Ireland's debutants were left with bittersweet memories of Twickenham on Saturday with Josh van der Flier hoping he and Ulster's Stuart McCloskey did enough to stay in Schmidt's thoughts.

Van der Flier and McCloskey started in the third round of the Six Nations, while Ultan Dillane made a real impact off the bench, and with their title hopes already over for this year, there have been calls for Schmidt to continue with the youth movement ahead of this summer's daunting tour to South Africa.

With the head coach granted a rare chance to experiment, Van der Flier would love the opportunity to continue in the seven jersey.

The Leinster flanker admitted his debut was made easier by having the equally inexperienced McCloskey alongside him.

"We just said to each other to enjoy it, to try and take in the atmosphere," he said of the brief exchange between the pair witnessed just before kick-off.

"Playing in Twickenham was unbelievable. We focused on enjoying it, the pair of us. It helps having someone else in the same boat. It's been incredible really. This time last year I was trying to get myself onto the Leinster 'A' team and get some game time there.

"I thought Ultan was unbelievable and Stuart had a really good game as well. I'd like to think for them anyway, they'll be putting their hands up for the next couple of games."

Like McCloskey, Van der Flier grew into the game, and could even have marked the occasion with a try had he found the TMO in a more generous mood.

Once he settled into his surroundings, the 22-year-old felt right at home.

"I was a bit nervous," he said. "It being my first cap, I didn't really know what to expect but once I got on the field, it just felt like any other game really.

"The biggest thing I noticed compared to club rugby is that it's just the tiniest of margins.

"We were just slightly off and we lost by quite a few points at the end. The small margins killed us. It was obviously a bit of a step-up from the level I've played at before.

"It seemed very stop-start through the first-half, a lot of breaks to check for decisions with the TMO and things like that, so it actually wasn't too bad. I made a couple of mistakes, and seeing the knock-on effect of those, you wouldn't really notice as much in club rugby.

"It's exaggerated at this level with the quick pace of the game."

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