Rory Best remains Ireland’s big doubt for Saturday’s mouth watering Rugby World Cup quarter-final showdown with Wales in Wellington.
Munster hooker Michael Sherry has flown out to New Zealand as a precaution with Best set to join Jerry Flannery on the World Cup sidelines.
Sean Cronin is in line to start against the Welsh as Best continues treatment on a shoulder injury picked up in Sunday’s impressive win over Italy.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney won’t make a final decision on Best’s availability until Friday as the medics continue to work on his injured AC joint.
Assistant coach Mark Tainton revealed: “The medical team’s worked hard with Rory over the last 24 hours. He’s reacted well and we’re very pleased with the response.
“He’s not totally ruled out but his chances at the moment are long. He’s doubtful for this weekend but has not been ruled out of the competition.”
Sherry is expected to arrive in New Zealand on Thursday and will act as cover to Cronin and Damien Varley in the build-up to the eagerly anticipated Welsh game.
“Rory Best is still progressing with his rehabilitation and while he is still rated doubtful for Wales, we felt it prudent to bring Mike down to New Zealand as precautionary cover,” added Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton.
“We expect Mike to arrive in New Zealand on Thursday.”
Irish winger Tommy Bowe, currently playing his club rugby in Wales, believes his team can rewrite the history books and make a first Rugby World Cup semi-final for Ireland when he faces many of his Welsh mates on Saturday.
“We’ve been very happy with the way the last four games have gone,” said Bowe. “We know how well Wales are playing, they’re definitely one of the form teams at the World Cup.
“It’s going to be difficult but this is a chance to create history for Ireland. There’s a huge amount of self-belief in the team. We have a great blend of youth and experience.
“A lot of the players have been in cup competitions and this is an exciting time for Irish rugby. This team is in as strong a position as we’ve ever had. We’ve got some world-class players.
“In the past we’ve always been strong going into the World Cup but failed playing against some of the top teams. This time we’ve beaten Australia and Italy.”
Tensions will be high on and off the field in Wellington as Ireland fans scramble for their tickets and their team look to the win that will see them remain in New Zealand for the remainder of the tournament with fourth place the worst possible outcome.
“The players’ nerves are obviously heightened at this stage of the competition,” added the Monaghan born Ospreys winger. “We know what’s at stake. This is certainly the biggest match I’ve ever played in.
“Wales are always a great enemy for Ireland and we’ve had some great games before. I always enjoy coming up against the Welsh fellas who I know very well. It adds an extra bit of spice for me.
“But we’re well used to coming up against Welsh opposition. For the guys who have toured with the Lions there’s great camaraderie between the nations. It will be a great little battle.
“I went to the cinema on Monday night and bumped into a few of the Ospreys players. That was the first time I’ve caught up with them and it was nice to have a chat.
“They’re friends at the end of the day, so it was just friendly banter, but when we get out on the pitch it will be a different story.”