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Ireland defend World Cup preparations after Kearney and Henshaw injury blows

Rob Kearney is unlikely to feature in Ireland's opening game against Scotland this weekend.
Rob Kearney is unlikely to feature in Ireland's opening game against Scotland this weekend.

By Rúaidhri O'Connor in Chiba

Ireland strength and conditioning coach Ciaran Ruddock says there is no concern within the set-up about the team's preparation for the World Cup despite Rob Kearney and Robbie Henshaw picking up soft tissue injuries since they landed in Japan.

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The IRFU played down reports that full-back Kearney is a major doubt for Sunday's opening fixture against Scotland, with a spokesman saying he is set for some light running today and may train tomorrow or Friday.

With Keith Earls on the same schedule and Robbie Henshaw out of the game with a hamstring issue he picked up on Sunday, outside backs are thin on the ground.

The Belfast Telegraph understands both Kearney and Earls remain highly unlikely to figure against the Scots despite the upbeat assessment from the union.

The players enjoyed a down day overnight, with a number of them taking the chance to take in Tokyo and visit the sumo stables for a tour before they get back to business overnight tonight.

And Ruddock, whose younger brother Rhys sat alongside him at a press conference at the team's base in Chiba this morning, stood over the squad's preparation.

 "Look, obviously, you never want to see anyone getting injured when you're coaching but there's not a huge concern at the moment," he said. "We've got a really good plan.

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"I think we are coming together really well but even if you look at the players who are fit and healthy coming into this tournament, I think we've put together a really good plan and we're confident that we've periodised it really well to allow the guys to be performing at their best now."

Ciaran was born in Wales, while Rhys was born in Dublin and they grew up at different sides of the Irish Sea with an Welsh Dad and Irish Mum.

Rhys represented Wales and Ireland at underage level, while both captained the Irish teams at U-20 World Cups.

Given their insights into the complex question of national identity, Rhys was asked to offer an opinion on Bundee Aki whose place in the squad has come under scrutiny because he is one of three players who qualifies under World Rugby's residency laws.

"I don't think anyone could argue with it," he said.

"He's probably one of the people that most displays the values of the group.

"Every time we see him play for Ireland, you really see the passion and the emotion that he brings.

"I think he represents the jersey with pride every single time. And obviously, people have opinions on these things and people might not know our full situation or our background.

"They might hear the accent and might have an opinion on us playing for Ireland. It is what is is.

"I think everyone in the group is hugely proud and there is a huge responsibility associated with that jersey. I think everyone represents the group massively well."

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