Ireland’s injury crisis finally shows signs of abating slightly as Jared Payne and Conor Murray will both be available for selection for next week’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy.
The Irish team’s Six Nations campaign has been derailed by a series of injuries to key players but assistant coach Richie Murphy revealed that for the first time this year, Ireland go into a game having more players available that for their previous game.
Scrum-half Conor Murray had been a big doubt to face the Azzuri after received eight stitches around his eye as a result of being being kicked in the face by full-back Mike Brown in Ireland's 21-10 defeat to England at Twickenham on Saturday.
However, speaking to RTÉ Sport, Murphy revealed that the Munster scrum-half is expected to be fit to face the Italians.
"Conor is just resting but he has eight stitches in the corner of his eye, luckily enough there’s no further damage to the eye but he’s fine. He’s fit and healthy as just has a badly bruised eye," he said.
Likewise there is positive news surrounding Jared Payne.
"We were probably a little too passive in defence and allowed them time and space to run at us."
The Ulster centre missed the defeat to England with a hamstring injury that he picked up in the previous game against France but Murphy revealed that he is now back training.
"Jared Payne has come back from injury, trained today on his own but he’s ready and fit to start training with us early next week," he said.
"There’s a couple of other bodies coming back in and it’s nice to be actually able to select a team with more bodies from the preceding week than less.
"He came through a full session with the strength and conditioning and medical staff and they were both happy with where he was.
"Talking to him as he was coming off the pitch he felt fine, said he had no issues whatsoever and is looking forward to getting back involved and up for selection for the following week."
Reflecting on the loss to England, Murphy insisted that while the team were disappointed with their performance, there were positives to be taken from the defeat.
"When you look back on it, we had some opportunities that we just didn’t take," he said. "We’re a little disappointed in some of our play.
"We were probably a little too passive in defence and allowed them time and space to run at us. One thing from that was our scramble defence was really good and we managed to keep ourselves in it.
"Going in at half-time 6-3 down, considering the possession and territory stats they had, was a pretty good result.
"Obviously, we came out in the second-half with a slightly different approach, we had a really good start and got ourselves ahead. Our problem then was we just didn’t back it up."
Among those positives were the impact that debutants of Leinster’s Josh van der Flier and Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey.
The duo earned their first Irish caps against England and Murphy believes that both have put themselves in the frame to feature against Italy.
"I think the lads done well," Murphy said. "They had big moments within the game, the all carried the ball pretty well and Josh obviously had 15 tackles which is a great first game for him.
"We always had the belief that those guys would be able to do that. They’ll get loads of information out of that game, stuff that they need to go away and get better on and they’ll be in the mix for selection next week."