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Rugby World Cup: Fears are growing giant skipper Paul O'Connell is leaving the stage

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

If, before this World Cup began, Joe Schmidt did a little stress testing of his squad working out worst-case scenarios, it is unlikely he even contemplating facing Argentina in a quarter-final without Paul O'Connell, Johnny Sexton, Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Jared Payne.

Now that the date has been fixed, that is the potential reality for the Ireland coach who is likely to lose his captain in the next 24 hours after the serious hamstring injury he suffered in the seconds before half-time.

Schmidt was downbeat on O'Connell's injury, admitting that he "suspects" it was the last time we'll see the giant lock in green.

He is expected to confirm that the captain will miss the rest of the campaign after he undergoes a scan today and it is feared the injury may be serious enough to threaten the Toulon-bound Munster legend's career.

Schmidt was more confident on Sexton and O'Mahony, while he lost Payne to a foot injury before yesterday's colossal effort. It is understood that the fly-half injured his groin in the moments before the shuddering hit by Louis Picamoles that brought his day to a close and that, despite him vomiting on the pitch, he did not suffer a head injury.

O'Mahony left the dressing-room on crutches and with his knee in a brace.

O'Brien, meanwhile, could be cited today after he appeared to be seen punching Pascal Pape on the television footage.

"The update on the injuries is it doesn't look great on Paul, looks like an upper hamstring but we're probably going to have to wait until tomorrow to get that scanned, just to make sure that the inflammation has decreased a little bit," Schmidt said.

"Johnny, it looked like an adductor to me, but that's not the learned eye of a medic, so they'll probably get Johnny scanned tomorrow and Peter O'Mahony as well.

"Pete didn't seem too bad. We're hopeful with Pete, I think it's a twist of the ankle or knee but he was walking pretty well in the changing room and hopefully he's okay. I'm not sure which one it is, whether it's the ankle or the knee.

"I've spoken briefly to Johnny and he's already talking about next week so I'm not sure if that means he'll be playing or not but he's never short of advice.

"It's probably Paul who worries me the most of those three."

As for O'Brien, who could face a suspension, Schmidt defended his openside who delivered a brilliant performance.

"I truly hope not," he said when asked if he expected to hear more from the disciplinary officials. "He was being held at the time, he swung an arm I don't think he was looking directly at the player, but it's not for me to determine.

"It's not a closed fist, I'd be hopeful, but it's not a decision for me. Hopefully it's not something that impacts on us considering the dressing room at the moment we have we can ill-afford to lose another player, a player of Sean's experience and standing in the group."

Belfast Telegraph


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