Ireland sweating over key duo
INJURY UPDATE: Ireland dished out a 56-19 Six Nations thrashing to Italy in Dublin on Saturday, but Joe Schmidt’s side face an anxious wait after Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw were taken off injured.
Furlong appeared in some discomfort when he limped off the field inside five minutes clutching at his leg, but the hosts quickly returned to the task at hand to inflict a tournament-record-equalling 14th consecutive loss on Italy.
Meanwhile, Henshaw suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder.
The Leinster back left the field with his injured right arm in a sling, but head coach Joe Schmidt is holding on to hope Henshaw may have avoided serious injury.
“We’ll know post a scan on [Sunday],” said Schmidt in a news conference. “We’ve got a scan booked for him.
“He looked in a fair bit of discomfort coming off. He’s a lot more comfortable now, which is promising, but what’s not promising is the degree of discomfort he was in.
“We’ll have an update hopefully later once he’s had that scan.”
In terms of Furlong, the coach said: "He felt a tightening on deceleration," explained Schmidt. "For a tighthead prop, he probably just moves a little more quickly than he should.
"We will check him out tomorrow, that will give us a better picture, but we’d be hopeful that he would still be okay in two weeks’ time."
Henshaw and Conor Murray both profited from excellent Jack McGrath passes to touch down, with Jonathan Sexton – the last-gasp drop-goal hero of the opening win over France – splitting the posts with each of the conversions.
A rout looked likely when Bundee Aki’s diagonal run took him over and Sexton stretched Ireland’s lead to 21 points with as many minutes gone.
Aki turned provider to set up Keith Earls for a bonus-point try in the closing stages of a one-sided first half, with Italy coach Conor Shea – who won 35 caps for Ireland – coming in for heavy punishment against his countrymen.
Another Henshaw try arrived soon after the restart when Sergio Parisse’s pass was cut out, but he hurt his arm in the process and had to go off as Ireland’s fitness worries mounted.
After captain Rory Best recorded his ninth international try, Italy finally got off the mark as Tommaso Allan went over despite suspicions of a forward pass, only for Jacob Stockdale to promptly restore order.
Parisse atoned for his error by setting up Edoardo Gori, with questions again raised over the crucial pass, and there was still time for another Stockdale score before Matteo Minozzi had the final say.