Star trio in World Cup fitness race.

Against the backdrop of two glorious weekends for Irish rugby the focus now switches to planning and preparation for the World Cup in New Zealand. For three of our star players, Stephen Ferris, Jerry Flannery and Rob Kearney time is slowly running out to prove their fitness and make the squad to New Zealand.

Some of the seats on the plane are filled already. Barring injury Ronan O’Gara, Jonny Sexton, Jamie Heaslip, Paul O’ Connell and Brian O’Driscoll are all assured of their place but for the trio above it will be a nervous few months as the try convince Declan Kidney that they are 100% fit to travel.

In the cases of Ferris and Kearney they are both recovering from serious knee injuries. Both have played little or no rugby in the last nine months. It has even been mooted that Kearney could move to South Africa for the summer months and gain match fitness with one of their franchises.

For Flannery it has been his calf that has been the main source of concern. He has been plagued by his troublesome calf for the past 18 months and has played only one game since the turn of the year, which was his comeback match against Ulster in January in Thomand Park where he again aggravated his calf problem.

It is a testament to the depth that is in Irish rugby at the moment that even if all three came back to full fitness they would have a serious battle on their hands to get back into the 30 man squad.

Felix Jones has blossomed at full back for Munster and impressed hugely in their win against Leinster and would be an interesting selection choice should he travel given that the full back position was such a hot topic during the Six Nations.

The back row position is where Ireland will be spoiled for choice should Ferris not make it. Along with Heaslip there will be the likes of David Wallace, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings, Kevin McLaughlin, James Coughlan and Denis Leamy.

The hooker position is a little more concerning. If Flannery were not able to make it Rory Best would travel as No1 with Sean Cronin, Damien Varley and Mike Sherry travelling as backup. All three are high class players but the presence of Flannery would be a huge confidence boost to the Irish pack.

Along with the three injury concerns Kidney will also have a tough choice to make at scrum half. In normal circumstances Eoin Redden, Peter Stringer and Tomas O’Leary would be shoe-ins but the form of Issac Boss and in particular Connor Murray, who has leapfrogged both Stringer and O’Leary at Munster will make for some interesting discussion in the coming weeks.


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