Team manager Mick Kearney has defended the IRFU’s player welfare programme in the wake of the unprecedented injury crisis which has hit Ireland's RBS 6 Nations campaign.
Injuries have blighted Ireland's campaign with over half of the squad requiring medical treatment over the course of the championship, including up to nine players who were left carrying knocks after Saturday's 13-13 draw with France.
Although the IRFU's welfare programme is in place to help prevent injuries by restricting the number of matches international players take part in, provinces have expressed concern at the scheme, but Kearney insists the latest crisis is just down to bad luck.
“The injury thing is absolutely extraordinary. I was thinking about it and it reminded me of Charles Haughey and the famous GUBU quote — Grotesque Unbelievable, Bizarre and Unprecedented,” Kearney is quoted as saying in the Irish Examiner.
“It has been a little bit like that for the last few weeks so it has been very unfortunate. I don’t think there is an underlying issue. I think the majority of injuries are soft tissue injuries, which can happen, and I just think it has been unfortunate and unlucky as well. But there is no actual trend to it or nothing in it to look at and say we are doing something wrong.”
Jonathan Sexton, Brian O'Driscoll, Mike McCarthy and Donnacha Ryan are among those who have suffered injuries during the campaign, while Gordon D'Arcy and Eoin Reddan sustained serious knocks which brought their championship to a premature end.
Assistant coach Les Kiss admitted he had never experienced such a lengthy injury list throughout his career.
"Certainly the biggest [injury list] I’ve been involved with, no doubt. There is also just an unwavering belief and commitment from the guys to not lean on that. That’s impressive," Kiss stated.
“We certainly do have to play big teams but, again, the challenge... the question isn’t whether it is fair or not, that’s what it is. What I’m trying to say is: we have to build our game around what our strengths are. We have to go into a game and be able to fight in the trenches, and negate what it is sometimes a size disadvantage.
“I just think they deserve a break and I hope they get it this weekend, hope they get the result. To tell you the truth, it could’ve fallen off in a really bad way, we were right on the edges of victories, you couldn’t have asked for more from them. They have been brilliant.”