Ireland and Joe Schmidt are entering the final four weeks of preparations ahead of the 2017 Six Nations championships and today, they received an extremely positive injury update.
Connacht’s Ultain Dillane has been a major doubt for the start of the new campaign, a tricky trip to Muirfield to take on a resurgent Scotland, and it was expected that head coach Joe Schmidt would have to make plans without the ever improving lock.
Fears for the 23-year-old’s involvement arose following an ankle injury he picked up against ulster on December 23rd. However, following a review of the injury, the original fears that surgery may be required have been allayed and news from the province is that he is expected to return in between three and four weeks.
While this may rule him out of the trip to Scotland on February 4th, Dillane could well be available for the similarly tricky journey to Rome to face the always proud Italians a week later.
Despite having plenty of cover in the second row in the form of Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson and Devin Toner, the availability of Dillane will ensure that Schmidt will have a full compliment of option to allow him rotate his experienced squad and ensure the engine room of the Irish pack stays as fresh as possible for the crucial home ties with England and France.
As England come to grips with yet another potential injury disaster and Wales look to rekindle the form that saw them take Grand Slam honours in 2012, it appears that Ireland are best placed to mount a challenge for the 2017 crown.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
On this week’s Oval Office Podcast we look at Leicester Tigers’ options and discuss Johnny Sexton’s potential Lions tour.