Dan Sheehan ruled out of Ireland’s opening Rugby World Cup match against Romania

Jack Conan will also miss first pool game in Bordeaux while David Kilcoyne also unlikely to feature

Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell has confirmed that, as expected, Dan Sheehan has been ruled out of their opening World Cup pool match next Saturday against Romania at the Stade de Bordeaux (kick-off 3.30pm local time/2.30pm Irish), and so too has Jack Conan.

Both players sustained foot ligament injuries in the warm-up wins at home to Italy and England, and although Conan has had an extra two weeks to recover, neither will be risked against the Romanians. David Kilcoyne (hamstring) is also unlikely to feature in the opening game.

“Everyone’s going well. There are a few guys still finishing their rehab and they won’t be involved at the weekend but by and large we’re close to a full bill of health,” said O’Connell. But when asked whether anyone would not be involved, he said: “Dan and Jack Conan. David Kilcoyne as well is struggling a little bit but should be okay next week.”

O’Connell did intimate that all three players will be fit and available for Ireland’s second game against Tonga on Saturday week in Nantes, but of course that remains to be seen, particularly with regard to Sheehan.


Rob Herring and Rónan Kelleher will thus be the hookers in the matchday 23 against Romania, while Andrew Porter and Jeremy Loughman will be the loosehead props, with Caelan Doris set to start at number eight, most likely alongside Peter O’Mahony and Josh van der Flier.

In what is likely to be a strong selection, and close to full strength, in addition to Kelleher the other player not to play a minute in the warm-ups, Johnny Sexton, looks a probable starter, with O’Connell admitting that some players required game time more than others.

“There are some players that needed game time from the end of last year as well, some guys that maybe picked up knocks during pre-season and probably didn’t get as much running as other guys.

“We kind of trained two days a week and they were generally pretty high intensity, there was a decent level of contact in them. If you were involved in a lot of those training sessions you got a lot of very rugby specific fitness into your legs. If you missed a few of those, you’re behind a little bit so that’s all it is. It’s just about getting guys game time really.”

O’Connell admitted that his own area of expertise, the lineout, has caused him and the players frustration in each of the warm-up games.

“In that Samoa game, in the first half we had a beautiful throw from Tom Stewart at the start and we drop it cold. That was tough on him. We got one call wrong, we got a call wrong as well in the England game, which should never happen to us,” said O’Connell, although he attributed it in part to the constant changes in personnel.

“But we haven’t made any major changes. We just need to make better decisions when we’re in there.”

O’Connell played in four World Cups and recalled: “One of my experiences would have been in 2007 being over trained a little bit and probably got the hotel wrong, got the food wrong a little bit and fuelling is such a big part of preparation.

“Your temptation is as a player is to train as hard as you can but you need to leave something in the tank a little bit as well. And your temptation as a coach is the same. I would say it’s a big strength of Andy’s and Jason Cowman is managing that and having good feel for where the players are at in terms of their training load,

We know a lot know from a GPS point of view, that’s a really good guide for us to be able to know where we are training-wise relative to where we have been before in terms of the metres, the levels of contact we have and that. That’s been a great guide.

“The other thing is sometimes you feel like you come to a World Cup and you need to reinvent the wheel a little bit. We want to evolve and get better for sure but it’s not about reinventing anything and those are my two lessons.”

To that end, O’Connell asserted that the squad has had what he described as a brilliant pre-season.

“We weren’t successful in my times at World Cups but I enjoyed them all. I think ‘07 was tough, there was a really visible dip in performance during the competition but every other tournament was really enjoyable. I must say, I loved them immensely, loved the training, loved the build-up, loved being with the lads.

“I think we have real continuity here with the lads in terms of how we play, in terms of selection, in terms of them knowing each other and knowing what each other are about and knowing how to enjoy themselves and switch off.

“That’s probably one of the most enjoyable things about the tour in New Zealand. Even though we took on those two extra games and we had a tough start. I think the players were enjoying it immensely.

“Part of that was maybe how the coaches ran it but a lot of it was because they were able to take a hold of it themselves and know how to work hard and know how to enjoy themselves, know how to enjoy each other’s company. We haven’t strayed far from that formula that we’ve had in the last few years in terms of how we run the working week.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times