Ireland were dealt a major double blow ahead of this weekend’s Autumn test against the All Blacks with both Conor Murray and Robbie Henshaw ruled out of the Aviva stadium test.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen ratcheted up the mind games with compatriot Joe Schmidt by saying in the lead up to the game that Murray would feature for the Six Nations winners despite five months out battling a neck injury.
The Limerick man has been back in training and making progress, but today the IRFU confirmed that Murray would not be considered for selection against the All Blacks.
Henshaw is still struggling with the hamstring strain he suffered in the warmups before last weekend’s win over Argentina.
It’s likely that Bundee Aki will partner the returning Garry Ringrose in midfield, a combination that sealed the Grand Slam win over England earlier in the year.
Ireland will also be without openside Sean O’Brien who needs arm surgery following a breakage against the Pumas with Dan Leavy expected to start against New Zealand.
Johnny Sexton believed Henshaw’s absence would be felt most for this crucial encounter.
“Robbie’s been a big part of the team over the last number of years and has bounced back from a number of injuries [shoulder and knee],” Sexton said before Irish training in Dublin.
“I’m sure he will bounce back quickly again but he is a loss for us this week.”
Ireland have learned to operate without Murray and Sexton said placing the pressure of a return against the world champions on the lively No 9 was a bit too much at this stage of his recovery.
“He’s just trying to make sure he gets it right going forward, ‘It’s a big ask if you’re out for a few weeks and asked to play the All Blacks but would be a big step up. Hopefully we see him back soon.”