FARRELL'S DILEMMA: Long injury list and 'dubious' TMO calls preoccupy Irish coach

rugby08 July 2024 07:00| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Craig Casey © Getty Images

A lengthy injury list may preoccupy Ireland coach Andy Farrell’s mind as his team head to Durban for the second test against the Springboks, but the fuel of feeling on the wrong side of what he called “dubious” TMO calls will fire up his side this week.

Farrell faces some posers, both in tactics and selection this week as his side look to salvage the second test in Durban, knowing that they don’t have the added factor of altitude to contend with at sea level, and the Durban pitch should favour them more than the hard track at Loftus Versfeld.

Farrell first has to contend with a long injury list - Craig Casey seems to be unavailable after being knocked out cold and stretchered off at Loftus Versfeld, while Dan Sheehan looks to have an ACL injury that will end his tour and keep him out for a long time.

Apart from that, Robbie Henshaw looks also to have a concussion - but was inexplicably allowed to continue playing afterwards - and could sit the second test out while Andrew Porter tore the webbing of his hand between the thumb and forefinger and is in doubt as well.


Add to that injury concerns over Bundee Aki (shoulder) and James Lowe (thigh) and even debutant James Osborne (groin) and it is clear the medical update will be crucial to the team’s selection hopes this week.

“He’s [Casey] concussed. He was still on the trolley when I came in at the end so obviously it was concerning enough but he was up and walking around, not quite himself yet, but he’s up and about and wondering what’s going on.”

More clarity should be there later on Monday but Ronan Kelleher is the likely replacement for Sheehan, with South African-born hooker Rob Herring likely to be his understudy.

Conor Murray is almost certain to start in Casey’s place, especially after he scored a try in the second half in Pretoria, with Irish media tipping Connacht’s Caolin Blade on the replacement bench.

If Henshaw is ruled out, then Garry Ringrose, who had a good second-half cameo on Saturday is likely to come into the side while if there are further injuries the likes of Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale and Jordan Lamour could come into the reckoning.


Farrell was asked about what could change this week and his answer was “a lot”.

“Quite a bit actually. I suppose the main thing is attacking the game the way we want to do it and not being desperate just because we’ve lost this week.

“If that creeps in then you become even more ill-disciplined and I think discipline cost us. The penalty count wasn’t outrageous but the way we put pressure on ourselves and relieved pressure for them is what we need to address.”

And he wanted a more focused squad this week, with Irish fans hoping the team can bounce back as they did two years ago in New Zealand after losing the first test to return and win the second.

“First and foremost, make sure they turn up for work in the right manner, make sure they’re not feeling sorry for themselves, so that they’re open enough to be honest, learn the lessons and put them right. Attack the week, have a good week, and enjoy it.

“It’s our last week of the season, they should be buzzing for that. You only get to that point if you’re able to be honest and straight with each other and there’s a few things we need to get off our chests at the beginning of the week and then get on together.”


Farrell promised that the team would fight until the end.

“The obvious one is we never go away. There's a fight there, we always give ourselves a little bit of hope and, with a little bit of luck, it could have been a little bit closer.

“You don’t always win a game even when you play the best, but certainly a few things went against us and that’s just life. We can certainly play better than that and I’ve no doubt South Africa would no doubt, 100 per cent say the same.”

While Farrell on Saturday congratulated the Boks and said that they deserved to win, he wasn’t at all pleased about the television match official, who gave two controversial calls - one ruling out a James Lowe try and the other confirming a try for Cheslin Kolbe, both of which have been disputed by the tourists.

While he was as diplomatic as he could be, it was clear that he was seething underneath. Lowe’s try was disallowed because the ball was deemed to be turned over illegally in the ruck, while Kolbe’s miracle try, after Lowe had jumped in the air to keep the ball in field from a penalty kick to the touchline, bounced favourably for the winger. The TMO took a long time to decide, but was clear that there was clear no evidence that Lowe had the ball when his foot touched the ground outside the field of play.


“It’s not for me to say but I saw quite a few of them live and they had a dubious thought about it but anyway, that’s life.

“We will go through the right channels and make sure we do things properly as far as those things are concerned. You’ll make it what you want. We have to go through the right channels. Unlucky, lucky, that’s the game as well.

“You’ll make your own decision on whether he still had the ball in his right hand or whether the ball hit him as he threw it back into the field and his foot was in touch. That’s for us all to debate. It is what it is, that is the sport, it’s difficult to referee.

“You just want consistency, that’s all. Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t. You’ll make your own decision.”

Ireland will name their squad on Thursday for the second test.