IRELAND WILL HAVE to plan for their final assault on New Zealand’s unbeaten Test record without the services of Jamie Heaslip and Gordon D’Arcy.
The Number 8 and inside centre have been ruled out of the remainder of Ireland’s rugby tour to New Zealand.
The pair picked up injuries during Ireland’s agonising 22-19 defeat to the All Blacks in Christchurch on Saturday.
D’Arcy left the field during the game due to injury and following a scan, it revealed a calf strain and he will be unavailable for the final test.
The 32-year-old was recalled for the weekend tilt at the All Blacks following Keith Earls’ shoulder injury in the first Test.
His 60-minute performance for Ireland was his best in recent memory as he shut down the threatening Conrad Smith and hunted in tandem with his captain, Brian O’Driscoll.
D’Arcy will return home and Ulster centre Paddy Wallace has been called into the squad as cover, arriving in New Zealand on Tuesday.
Heaslip, it turned out after a post-game x-ray, had fractured his right index finger.
It did not prevent him from finishing out the full 80 minutes. The Naas man was one of Ireland’s stand-out players in the opening clashes against the world champions.
The fracture rules him out of this weekend, but with the options available within the squad, no replacement has been called for.
The departure of such an influential figure in the back row could prompt Declan Kidney to shift his personnel around.
Sean O’Brien may now move to the back of the scrum, with Kevin McLaughlin holding onto the number six jersey and Peter O’Mahony stepping in at openside flanker.
Chris Henry of Ulster represents the like-for-like option.
The IRFU revealed that ‘in addition to the normal bumps and bruises from the game, there were several players who required further medical assessment’. Its statement continued:
Captain Brian O’Driscoll and loosehead prop Mike Ross went for precautionary x-rays on facial injuries sustained in the game.
“Both x-rays were clear and neither player has been ruled out of contention for selection next weekend.”
The battle to partner O’Driscoll in the centre at Waikato Sradium next Saturday should be fought out between Darren Cave and his Ulster teammate, Paddy Wallace.
Earls, however, has not given up on his hopes of featuring.
Another option would be to drop Jonathan Sexton back and bring in Ronan O’Gara at out-half, a tactic Ireland employed in the World Cup and during the closing stages of their weekend defeat.
The last-gasp defeat, brough on by a Dan Carter drop goal with 35 seconds remaining, was loss number 25 for Ireland in 26 matches against the All Blacks.
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