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Ireland handed double injury boost ahead of Six Nations decider

By PA
Calvin Nash of Ireland is treated for an injury during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium in London, England. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ireland pair Calvin Nash and Ciaran Frawley are on track to feature in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations title decider with Scotland, according to assistant coach Simon Easterby.

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Munster wing Nash, who was forced off by a head injury inside five minutes of the 23-22 round-four defeat to England, trained with Andy Farrell’s squad on Tuesday.

Versatile Leinster back Frawley came on to replace Nash at Twickenham but departed with a similar issue 10 minutes into the second half. He is understood to be undergoing rehab with his province.

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“Obviously Nashy and Frawls have to go through the process and return to contact and then the return-to-play part of that is making sure they don’t have symptoms,” Easterby told a press conference, according to the Irish Independent.

“Those symptoms would put them back a day, but they are both on track to be up for selection this weekend.”

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Ireland will retain the championship crown by avoiding defeat against the Scots in Dublin, while two losing bonus points would also be sufficient.

Their pursuit of successive Grand Slams was ended in agonising fashion by a last-gasp Marcus Smith drop goal in south-west London.

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Easterby insists Ireland cannot afford to “feel sorry for ourselves” ahead of a pivotal St Patrick’s weekend at the Aviva Stadium.

“Expectation within the group is high,” he said.

“Obviously the previous games during the Six Nations had been good, (but) we still feel there are things every week that we can get better at.

“We just didn’t get on the front foot enough versus England. We let them come at us and get momentum.

“We weren’t at our best, but we could have won it.

“It’s important we tidy that up, get over it, and there’s plenty to play for this week.

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“Like any team that loses and has high expectations of themselves, they’re disappointed in how they performed.

“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We need to pick ourselves up for Saturday.”

England, who travel to France, can capitalise on an Ireland slip-up to snatch the title, while Les Bleus and Scotland are mathematically still in the mix.

Realistically, Gregor Townsend’s men are playing for the consolation of the Triple Crown following their shock loss to Italy due to Ireland’s vastly-superior points difference.

“There’s no lack of clarity of what they need to get ready this week,” said Easterby.

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“There are subplots everywhere and we’ve been very fortunate over the last couple of seasons to play for something on the last weekend.

“We also know that Scotland will be smarting after that defeat to Italy, who deserved that result, but we know their back three can create problems, Finn Russell pulling the strings and when he’s on form it’s difficult to stop their momentum.

“We have a huge amount to play for and want to finish on a high. We want to put to bed what happened last weekend.

“We can’t change that, but it’s the last game of the Six Nations and a title on the line.

“Winning the Grand Slam last year was hard to do. We fell short last weekend, but we still have something special to play for this weekend at the Aviva.”

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Flankly 10 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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