Will Addison stays on standby as Robbie Henshaw to miss World Cup opener against Scotland
Ulster's Will Addison has not yet been called to Japan even though Robbie Henshaw will sit out this weekend's World Cup opener against Scotland.
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The Ireland camp remain confident that the Leinster centre will play a part in the tournament as scrum coach Greg Feek gave an upbeat assessment of his hamstring injury at the team’s base at Chiba this morning.
Addison was a late scratch from Ulster's pre-season defeat to Glasgow in Scotstoun on Saturday afternoon, switching from the starting line-up to the bench just prior to kick-off and not taking to the field.
However, Schmidt confirmed that move was a precaution as Henshaw will remain with the squad for the foreseeable future, leaving the Ulsterman on standby.
Henshaw underwent scans in Chiba yesterday and Feek is "reasonably positive" about the prognosis but says the 26-year-old is set for further assessment later this week.
"Robbie’s looking a lot better this week, we’re just back from training and still sorting things out but it’s reasonably positive in terms of what we saw," he said at a press conference in Chiba this morning.
"Day by day, week by week things can improve so we’re just taking it like that.
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"From here on in, we’ll see how it goes over the next few days and then re-assess.
"As you know our collective has always been something we pride ourselves on, we back everyone and we’ve spent a lot of time in pre-season.
"I know what game he’ll be targeting, it’s still early days. We still have hopes for next week.
"It’s very, very unlikely he’ll play this week. You can read between the lines a bit.
"We’ll go day by day, there will be another update next week."
Ireland’s other injury worry is Keith Earls who remains a doubt for Sunday’s clash in Yokohama.
"Keith is chipping away, he’s working hard. He’s his own man, he’s working hard and he’s going good. They’ll look at that (his return to training) this afternoon," said Feek.
As for Joey Carbery, Feek said the out-half took a full part in training at the Ichihara Suporeku Park in Ichihara overnight.
"Joey was running around today, he trained and I’m happy for him," he said. "I think he’s living on the whole you’re only as good as your last game! If he can do that he’ll be good."
Back in the question mark outside centre position, whoever ends up starting at 13 in Yokohama, Bundee Aki says he'll feel familiar with his midfield partner.
"I think it's good that I've had the chance and privilege to build a relationship with all the centres in camp, which is very good," he said.
"Whoever gets in or gets picked in the game this week with Scotland, we're all familiar with each other.
"We'll find out when we get there and we've all played together, so it's fine.
"Everyone has had the chance to play together... the likes of Chris and Ringer playing together, myself and Chris, Ringer and myself, we've all played together so there's nothing wrong with it, whoever Joe picks on the weekend I'm sure will put in a good performance."
Garry Ringrose is the favourite to replace Henshaw and partner Aki in the centre against the Scots, who themselves have injury issues with Jamie Ritchie out of the opener. Blair Kinghorn, Ben Toolis, Jonny Gray, Blade Thomson and Allan Dell are all expected to be fit.
Schmidt had a stab at naming Townsend’s backline for him yesterday, yet his focus will be on getting his own combinations right.
Injury isn’t the only thing on his mind. The early forecasts are predicting heavy rain and thunderstorms for Sunday’s game in Yokohama and that will alter the plans.
Although coping without Henshaw is not ideal, he has plenty of practice.
If he picks Aki and Ringrose or Chris Farrell on Friday, it will be the 24th time in 30 Test matches that he’s been unable to name the same midfield back-to-back.
Most would assume Ringrose will step in, but Farrell’s size will be a consideration if the game plan is to bully the Scots.
“At this stage, they’ve all slotted in,” Schmidt said of his centres. “Yesterday, we didn’t train for particularly long as a team. We probably trained for about 30 minutes and in that 30 minutes guys went in and out.
“So, we believe that Bundee can play 12 and so can Chris, and Chris can play 13 and so can Garry Ringrose.
“When we played Scotland this year in the Six Nations, Bundee and Chris played together and did a good job.
“So we know that last year, Garry came in cold after Chris had been player of the match against Wales and played very well against Scotland.
“So, in recent times they’ve both got form against Scotland specifically and we know the different strengths they bring.
“We’ll keep an eye on that forecast and see what we feel is the best decision for the team.
“You always hope against hope and I’m hoping it was just cramp and the travel and things and that Robbie’s not too bad. As much as I say I’d be surprised if he’s in, I wouldn’t completely rule him out as yet.”
Although there’s been a revolving door of partners outside him, Aki’s constant presence makes life easier for the coach, who has been able to build around his midfield rock who has started 20 of the last 24 matches at No.12.
In that time, he’s had Ringrose alongside him eight times, Henshaw six times, Farrell five times and Addison once.