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6 Nations

Who’s in Line for Schmidt in Ireland’s Scrum-Half Crisis?

The reality facing joe Schmidt is that one or none of his back up 9’s will be available for Ireland’s opening game against rivals England on February 2nd.

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Over the weekend the Irish provinces completed a clean sweep of victories in Europe, but as the clubs are booming the nation begins to switch to the country’s 6 Nations defence and ask who is our back up at scrum-half?

The worrying sight for the provinces was that out of four only one had their first choice No.9 fully fit by the end of the game.

Ironically, that man is Conor Murray the one scrum-half that was missing during Ireland’s November Series wins.

Leinster fans celebrated a 29-13 win over fellow giants Toulouse with a bitter sweet feeling after seeing Luke McGrath helped off the pitch by medical staff in the second half with a leg injury.

Today, it was confirmed that he has suffered knee ligament damage and could be set to miss up to eight weeks out on the side-line. In other words, the entire 6 Nations.

McGrath’s injury was followed by news that Ulster’s John Cooney had pulled out of their clash with Racing 92 due to back spasms caused in training.

Before all of this, Kieran Marmion, Ireland’s second choice, underwent surgery on his ankle after the 16-9 win over the All-Blacks in November and is expected back soon.

The reality facing joe Schmidt is that one or none will be available for Ireland’s opening game against rivals England on February 2nd.

Names that have been thrown around are Ulster’s David Shanahan, and Munster’s Duncan Williams.

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However, the is a shining light is Connacht’s Caolin Blade, who has been covering for Marmion since his surgery, has held his own over his 18 appearances so far this season.

The word on the street is that a man, who only as far back as last month said,

“I haven’t really spoken to anyone about that, more so trying to play well here and try get number one here [Connacht] first of all, that’s my aim” when asked about Ireland duty, will be called up.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise as he has helped Connacht to fourth in their Pro14 conference and within touching distance of a quarter-final place in the Challenge Cup.

Some even wonder if Marmion will find it hard to get back into the Connacht team after Blade’s displays let alone the Irish team.

All of which means, that when Schmidt names his extended squad for the 6 Nations tomorrow don’t be surprised to hear Blade’s name.

In fact, the Galway hopeful could be about to show his abilities on the international stage and make a last gasp bid to claim a stake for a ticket to Japan later this year.

6 Nations

Wales Dealt Six Nations Double-Blow

Wales’ Six Nations title defence has been dealt a massive blow already with two stars facing surgery to fix injuries picked up on international duty

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(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Wales will be without both Jonathan Davies and Rhys Patchell for some part of the 2020 Six Nations campaign due to injury it has been confirmed.

Davies, a key member of the Welsh squad for the past number of seasons sustained a knee injury during Wales’ recent Rugby World Cup campaign, and Scarlets have announced that he will undergo surgery on the injury.

The recovery time for the for the centre is set to be six months, meaning he will miss the entire Six Nations tournament in what could be a critical blow as they look to defend their title. While it also means that he could potentially miss the entire club season for Scarlets.

As for Patchell, things aren’t as severe as Davies, but the fly-half is still set to miss the start of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury, which he too will have surgery on.

He is expected to miss between 12-16 weeks due to the injury in what is a cruel blow for a player that has suffered with injury previously, but had shown some brilliant form in recent times.

It is a far from ideal start to life at the helm for new head coach Wayne Pivac as he heads into his first tournament with the team.

As well as these injuries there are also further concerns regarding the likes of stars Liam Williams and Josh Navidi, who are both currently sidelined through injury, with the former looking likely to miss some part of the Six Nations.

Wales are looking to bounce-back during the tournament following a fourth-place finish at the World Cup, with all players hoping to impress Warren Gatland’s successor.

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6 Nations

Munster Star in Six Nations Fitness Race

Munster have confirmed that one of their key men is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines which could put his Six Nations spot in doubt

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Munster fly-half Joey Carbery is set for yet another spell in the sidelines according to head coach Johann van Graan due to injury.

Van Graan confirmed that Carbery is still suffering from an ankle injury which he sustained during Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Italy and is not able to put a return date for his comeback  due to the nature of the injury. 

“He is going to be out for some time. We got to make sure he gets his strength back and we get that ankle fully functional. From Joey’s point of view, obviously, he wants to play but his body is not right. Because of the type of injury he is definitely not going to be back in the next few weeks, I can tell you that,” he said on Carbery. 

The out-half was selected ahead of Leinster’s Ross Byrne in Ireland’s World Cup squad despite carrying the injury. However, it was reiterated throughout the tournament that he had fully recovered, which now appears to be untrue. 

His head coach also told reporters that the 23-year-old will not undergo surgery on the injury. When asked about the possibility of Carbery playing before Christmas van Graan admitted he is hopeful but he cannot be sure right now. 

“I hope so. At this stage it is very difficult for the medical team to determine that. Because he has had it for quite a while the most important thing now is Joey’s health. He is a Munster player. He is under my watch now so we have got to look after him. He is very important for the national team, I believe, for the future of Irish rugby,” he added. 

It is a massive blow for the Munster player who only moved from Leinster ahead of last season, and after starting brightly in the red jersey he picked up a hamstring injury that left him out for large portions of the season. 

The fear for Carbery now however is that due to the nature of the injury and the inability to place a return date, he could face a race to be fit for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign at the start of February next year. Carbery will hopefully be back in action and back to match fitness by then as he will want the chance to impress new head coach Andy Farrell during his first tournament at the helm.

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6 Nations

Japan Could Receive Six Nations Invitation

Following their incredible performances during this year’s Rugby World Cup it appears as though hosts Japan could be set for inclusion in one of the biggest international tournaments according to reports

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Japan are to be handed an invite into the Six Nations after their impressive showing at this year’s Rugby World Cup, according to a report by the Mail Online.

The report by Martin Samuel claims that the World Cup host nation, who went all the way to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, are to “receive a shock invitation” to European rugby’s elite international competition. 

It was previously thought that a move to the Rugby Championship would make more sense and that it was on the cards as the Southern Hemisphere nations were impressed by the brand of rugby that Japan played. 

However, it appears as though the tournament organisers are hesitant to bring them into the championship straight away, and are looking to include them within the next four or five years. Which would see them join come the end of the next World Cup cycle and see them miss out on some valuable development time ahead of the tournament. 

The report is clear that although formal talks between the Brave Blossoms and the Six Nations are yet to take place that World Rugby have been made aware that leading figures within the European organisation are very interested in the prospect. 

It would be a brilliant opportunity for the Japanese as they look to expand interest in the sport within the country and are in a prime position to do so with interest at an all time high following the success of the tournament in the Land of the Rising Sun. 

They have earned respect especially within Europe following wins over Six Nations side’s Scotland and Ireland during the group stages of the World Cup with Japan now sitting ahead of the former in 8th position in the World Rugby rankings due to their performances. 

Japan were among several tier two nations backing the making of a Nations Championship which would have allowed the likes of Fiji and themselves compete against the best nations around on an annual basis and with these developments it will raise further questions as to why the competition isn’t being developed. 

We will have to wait and see how things progress over the coming weeks and months but it seems as though Japan are in with a bigger chance than ever before in being added to one of the biggest international tournaments on the planet.

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