Ireland are preparing for any eventuality, making the risk in taking Dan Sheehan to the World Cup more than worth it, according to The Irish Times' Gerry Thornley.
Sheehan was injured in the 37th minute of Ireland's warm-up game against England in Dublin at the weekend. With that, and the start of the world showcase mere weeks away, the World Cup dream for the 24-year-old was seemingly in doubt.
It was reported on Monday that the foot injury could rule Sheehan out for up to eight weeks, which would effectively rule him out of the entire World Cup pool stage, leading many to ponder whether it would be too much of a risk to bring him to France.
However, speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, Gerry Thornley believes that the benefits of having Sheehan in the World Cup far outweigh the risks of carrying him in the squad for as long as needed.
Sheehan is worth the risk
While the original reports suggested that Sheehan's injury could take as long as six to eight weeks to recover, Thornley reports that it is closer to a four-week injury at the moment. This makes the risk of taking him to a World Cup much less of a concern.
"Dan Sheehan has become a world class hooker," Thornley said. "Jerry Flannery described him as the best hooker in the world, for his money at the moment.
"Certainly, a fully fit Dan Sheehan and a fully fit Ronán Kelleher would rival Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx as the best double act at hooker in the world game at the moment.
"So, when I asked [Mike] Catt that question, it wasn't just that he said, 'definitely, why not?'. It was the way he said it as well.
"They will desperately want to bring Dan Sheehan at all costs," Thornley added. "He already won 18 caps, he was ever-present in the three tests in New Zealand. He was ever-present, bar one game, in the Six Nations, starred in the wins over South Africa and Australia at home.
"With Kelleher's injury woes, Sheehan has become more and more integral to this team. Yes, definitely if it was a four week injury layoff, that would make him fit for the third pool game against South Africa. That would definitely be a gamble worth taking given the quality of player he is."
Preparing for the unpredictable
While Kelleher is currently a doubt to be fit in time for Samoa on Saturday, Andy Farrell has stated that he will be fit for the opening games of the World Cup next month.
This leaves Herring and Kelleher as the two hookers that will likely face Romania and Tonga, before the clash against the Springboks.
However, Thornley has also noted that the Irish camp seem to be preparing for the unpredictable when it comes to scrums and lineouts.
"I think they're unlikely to risk taking a fourth hooker, although I'm sure they considered that," Thornley said. "What we do know is that, out here, the scrum halves have been practicing their throwing in as well.
"That tells me, in an emergency as we know, Cian Healy can scrummage at hooker, that's where he started out with Old Belvedere.
"But, he's a non-throwing hooker. He's quite happy to slot in at hooker, which is an invaluable commodity to have in your front row permutations.
"So, say you've got that as cover at hooker in scrummaging in an emergency, and then [Josh] van der Flier or one of the scrum halves having to take a few darts in an emergency, that might just about cover all bases for the opening two games."
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