KOBE, Japan (Reuters) - Ireland will head south to Fukuoka for their final Pool A match against Samoa with a question mark over their credentials as Rugby World Cup title contenders and a concern over the fitness of loose forward Jordi Murphy.
Murphy took a shot to the ribs in the first half of Thursday’s 35-0 win over Russia in Kobe as the Irish got back to winning ways after their upset at the hands of hosts Japan in their second match.
The number eight, who flew in to join the squad as an injury replacement for Jack Conan last week, will have scans on Friday on an injury which, if it proves to be rib cartilage damage, would put an end to his World Cup.
“He’s going to get scanned today just to get exact detail on what’s happened with him,” forwards coach Greg Feek told reporters on Friday.
“So we obviously know it’s the ribs but once we get that done we’ll be able to determine what his plan will be.
“From what I’ve seen on TV he was in a bit of pain but these things can settle down. We’ll give him the best chance to get it right. We’ve got a decent turnaround to the next game so we’ll be able to assess him and go from there.”
There was better news on flyhalf Joey Carbery, who was a late withdrawal from the match-day 23 against Russia after sustaining what the team described as a “slight” ankle injury in the warm-up.
“I think it was more precautionary,” Feek added. “There are some unlucky instances in rugby where you get a little stamp or something like that and rather than take a risk, you minimise that.”
With nine days between their win over Russia and their final pool match against Samoa, captain Rory Best felt the squad would finally have time to “refresh” and “regenerate” after their campaign hit the rails against Japan.
The 122-test hooker, who was rested for the Russia match, said the confidence of the squad was strong enough to withstand the buffeting it took from the shock defeat in Shizuoka.
“Whenever you lose a game and you go from being supposedly contenders in the first game to useless in the second game, ultimately it’s always going to affect the confidence a little bit,” he said.
“But I think we bounced back well and I think this group understands what we need to do to play well. We understand our core values and we know that we weren’t as good in those areas against Japan.
“Sometimes you’ve got to just take it on the chin and think, ‘We didn’t play as well as we can, Japan played very well and put us under a bit of pressure and used their opportunities.’
“In terms of confidence in this group, I think we’re still very assured of what we’re capable of and how we get there.”
Ireland will be assured of a place in the quarter-finals if they beat Samoa on Saturday week.
Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Tokyo, editing by Amlan Chakraborty