Ireland will continue to monitor the fitness of absent prop Cian Healy following encouraging progress in his recovery from the injury which caused him to be left out of Andy Farrell’s Rugby World Cup squad.
Healy was certain to be included in Farrell’s 33-man selection for France before suffering a calf problem against Samoa on August 26 in his country’s final warm-up match.
The vastly-experienced Leinster loosehead, who will turn 36 next Saturday – the day Ireland complete their Pool B fixtures against Scotland in Paris, posted a positive update on social media, saying his rehabilitation was “ahead of schedule”.
Ireland team manager Mick Kearney believes Healy “would be a great addition” for later in the tournament, although he could only be called up if another player departed injured.
“The medics and S and C (strength and conditioning) would be in regular contact with Cian and I’m sure other players back home to see how their fitness levels are,” said Kearney.
“It’s great to see Cian back training and training well.
“Possibly later in the tournament, if we get an injury, Cian would be a great addition, if he was fully fit.
“I would say it’s good to see him back training but it will require an injury to another player for Cian to be able to come in.”
Initial prognosis on Healy’s injury suggested he would be sidelined for between five and 10 weeks.
The lower end of that estimate was reached on Saturday, two days after an Instagram video showed the 125-cap front-row forward working hard in the gym and running on the training pitch.
Healy, whose place in the squad was taken by Munster’s Jeremy Loughman, captioned the footage with: “It wasn’t easy getting here, but happy the body still knows how to recover ahead of schedule.
“Looking forward to getting back to it and will be forever grateful to those who got me to this point.”
Ireland are on the cusp of the quarter-finals following wins over Romania, Tonga and defending champions South Africa.
Head coach Farrell has so far been fortunate with injuries and had a full complement of players training on Saturday ahead of next weekend’s pivotal Stade de France showdown with the Scots.
Nevertheless, contingency plans are in place.
“There was a lot of conversations with the provinces during pre-season as to how we would keep the players fit that are not in the World Cup squad,” said Kearney.
“And you saw that there’s a mini interprovincial series going on at the moment. Leinster played Ulster the other night and Munster played Leinster as well.
“Whether it be Jamie Osborne or Gavin Coombes, Kieran Treadwell, there’s guys that are getting regular game time which is brilliant because initially I think the provinces might have said ‘we may not start playing pre-season games until a little bit later’.
“So it’s really good from our point of view that these guys are getting game time and will actually be match fit if they’re called in, which is always a possibility.”