September 23, 2019 / 2:11 AM / 21 days ago

Ireland's O'Mahony, Aki could be fit for Japan clash

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony and centre Bundee Aki could be available for Saturday’s World Cup Pool A game with Japan after both passed the second of three head injury assessment (HIA) tests, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - Ireland v France - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland - March 10, 2019 Ireland's Peter O'Mahony during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

O’Mahony and Aki exited Sunday’s impressive opening 27-3 victory over main pool rivals Scotland in the first half, after failing their initial HIA, but coach Joe Schmidt said they were symptom-free after the game.

However, under rugby’s concussion laws, neither player can train fully for six days after the knocks to the head, even if they pass the final assessment later on Monday.

The IRFU added that flyhalf Johnny Sexton, who relinquished kicking duties in the first half, did take a blow to the thigh but his move to the bench in the second half was for tactical reasons rather than injury related.

Flanker Josh van der Flier was replaced later on because of cramp but is fit, the IRFU said. Backs Keith Earls, Rob Kearney and Joey Carbery, who ran out of time last week to prove their fitness for the first game, are also available to play.

O’Mahony is a key part of the Irish lineout that by winning 12 throws from 12 on Sunday banished many of the concerns following a wobbly warm-up period as well as the decision to leave long time go-to jumper Devin Toner at home.

Prop Cian Healy, who said Ireland were happy with a lot of the performance in Yokohama, was especially pleased with a lineout that led to Ireland’s opening two tries.

“We haven’t done a group review but overall we’re pretty happy. There was probably one later on that didn’t go to plan, but bar that everything went well,” Healy told a news conference.

“We were able to set up nice driving platforms for the backs to attack off. That’s the main aim of it and we’ve put a lot of work into it. We were a bit patchy in the build-up games but had to stick together and stick to our processes and believe in what we’re doing.”

As one of 14 squad members who played in Japan two years ago against Ireland’s next opponents, Healy said the hosts showed enough in defeat to keep Ireland on high alert for Saturday’s clash.

“I was lucky enough to be on the tour two years ago and that was incredibly tough. They (Japan) play such a high-tempo game, they’ve got a lot of great ball players and finishers so it’s going to be a tough preparation for it,” he said.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Christian Schmollinger and Ken Ferris

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