Keith Earls doubtful for Ireland's Six Nations clash with England
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 15/03/17 12:50pm
Keith Earls is doubtful for Ireland with injury ahead of their final Six Nations clash with England on Saturday.
Earls came through Ireland's 22-9 defeat to Wales in Cardiff on Friday and did not appear to pick up an injury during the game, but the 29-year-old Munster back is now doubtful because of a groin injury.
The 2009 British and Irish Lion was one bright spark from a disappointing display in Cardiff as Ireland failed to set up a title decider with England, allowing Eddie Jones's side to secure the championship a week early with an emphatic 61-21 victory over Scotland.
Earls sat out training on Tuesday and is now a serious doubt for the game at the Aviva Stadium, especially considering Joe Schmidt's usual reluctance to pick players who have not trained throughout the week.
"Keith Earls has slight groin tightness," said Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek.
"He'll be training on Thursday, we're just giving him an extra bit of time. Johnny [Sexton] and Conor [Murray] trained today. They were pretty good, they got through it.
"With Jared [Payne], you've got to look at the weekend, where he would slot in, how he's tracking physically and where he is with everything else.
"He's a great guy to have even just in camp, let alone out on the field. We'll just wait and see. There's a few guys there with a few bumps.
"He's always an option, and if he's fully fit and things like that, then that would be even more of a headache."
England's heavy defeat of Scotland at Twickenham saw them retain the Six Nations title and register their 18th straight Test victory, equalling New Zealand's run from August 2015 to November 2016.
The All Blacks' run, which included their 2015 World Cup triumph, could be overtaken by England when they face Ireland in Dublin, where they will also look to become the first side to achieve back-to-back Grand Slams since 1992-93.
Ireland on the other hand will now be seeking to avoid losing all three Triple Crown matches in one championship for the first time since 1998 in Saturday's showdown, but Feek has insisted that will not necessarily mean wholesale changes.
"We were disappointed in Cardiff, and I think there's an emotional effect afterwards, a mental and physical fatigue," Feek said.
"But I think the players certainly emptied the tank massively. There were errors and some of those errors maybe compounded by some good Welsh defence.
"But also maybe from ourselves as well, just maybe choosing the wrong option, passing when we weren't supposed to, or not quite getting round the corner on defence, or maybe not winning the position when we needed to.
"We're all aware of that and we're trying hard not to do that. Sometimes with players and selections if that's what you're alluding to, they can learn from that and we've got to back them.
"So it's not something that we're going to suddenly change our philosophy in terms of how we play or who's in there, massively."