Stringer to be evaluated on Thursday

Ireland scrum-half Peter Stringer’s fitness will be re-evaluated on Thursday, two days before Ireland play England in the Six Nations.

Stringer is battling to recover from a broken hand sustained in the opening match against Wales, and was named as an option for the starting number nine jersey on Tuesday, together with Ulster’s Isaac Boss, as Stringer seeks to regain fitness

O’Sullivan said: “The situation with Peter is encouraging at the moment.

“His progress slowed down this week but he had a workout on Monday and there has been no adverse reaction to it so far.

“We’ll wait until tomorrow (Thursday) before taking another look at it.”

O’Sullivan also believes Andy Farrell has already emerged as an England talisman and is relishing his duel with Ireland’s dazzling midfield on Saturday.

Farrell has made an encouraging start to Test rugby, assisting Jonny Wilkinson in marshalling England’s backline in the Six Nations victories over Scotland and Italy.

O’Sullivan believes Farrell’s presence reduces the pressure on Wilkinson but knows he faces his toughest assignment yet when he meets Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy at Croke Park.

He said: “Jonny and Andy are two different players but they both have a lot of gravitas and leadership.

“They’ve played at the highest level and performed. It’s an interesting dynamic between them.

“What’s been beneficial for England is that Farrell has emerged as a talisman in the middle of the pitch and taken some responsibility from Wilkinson.

“That eases the burden on Jonny. They’ve both slotted in at first receiver and Brian Ashton is obviously keen for Farrell to shoulder more responsibility.

“It will be interesting at the very least to see how the midfields do on Saturday. I’m looking forward to it.”

Brian Ashton was appointed England’s new head coach in December and has overseen a successful start to the Six Nations, lifting the gloom that accompanied the world champions’ slump.

O’Sullivan believes Ashton, who had a brief and uncelebrated spell as Ireland boss in 1997, is a canny operator who will get England fired-up for their Croke Park debut.

He said: “You can see Brian Ashton’s stamp on the game already. He’s trying to get the ball into the outside channels and trying to create quick ruck ball, creating mis-matches.

“He has the right personnel around him. He’s smart enough to play the games that suit his players.

“There’s always a trade off between the game you want to play and the one you can play.

“The team are fairly comfortable with their game plan and know that if they implement their it properly, they will give us a tough day.”

365 Digital

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