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Six Nations
Double injury blow for Ireland
ESPNscrum Staff
March 5, 2012
Ireland's Conor Murray receives treatment for a knee injury, France v Ireland, Six Nations, Stade de France, Paris, France, March 4, 2012
Conor Murray receives attention for his knee injury © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Conor Murray | Paul O'Connell
Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: Ireland

Ireland have received a huge blow with the news that both Conor Murray and skipper Paul O'Connell will miss the rest of the Six Nations through injury.

O'Connell will miss the remaining two matches against Scotland and England after suffering ligament damage to his left knee in yesterday's 17-17 draw with France. The inspirational 32-year-old, who has been in outstanding form, completed the match in Paris despite his injury and will be out for between three and four weeks.

And in a sickening double blow, scrum-half Murray will also miss the rest of the tournament because of a knee injury. Ireland have now lost two Lions captains in their ill-fated 2012 Six Nations campaign, with Brian O'Driscoll unavailable after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Ulster hooker Rory Best is the favourite to lead the Irish against Scotland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, with the team named at Wednesday lunchtime.

"Paul O'Connell underwent a scan on his left knee after twisting it during the game," read an Irish Rugby Football Union statement. "The scan has shown that he has picked up an injury to his medial collateral ligament.

"The injury will also rule him out of the next two games with an expected three- to six-week recovery period. Conor Murray was replaced in the 59th minute after falling awkwardly on his right knee and a scan has revealed bone bruising in the joint.

"But while there has been no significant damage done to his ligaments, the injury does rule him out of contention for the remaining two games of the championship with a expected three- to four-week recovery period."

Munster scrum-half Tomas O'Leary and Connacht forward Mike McCarthy have been called up as cover for the injuries. Donnacha Ryan is in pole position to replace O'Connell at lock while Eoin Reddan will take Murray's place.

Losing both players, but especially talismanic 85-cap veteran O'Connell, is the latest setback to a campaign haunted by misfortune. On the opening weekend Wales triumphed at Lansdowne Road with a last-minute penalty that a disciplinary hearing subsequently admitted had been awarded in error. Six days later their trip to Paris was rendered a waste of time when the frozen Stade de France pitch was deemed unplayable - 10 minutes before kick-off.

Though they subsequently hammered Italy 42-10, frustration levels continued to rise when the France fixture was rescheduled for yesterday rather than a day earlier, the option favoured by the Irish management.

Highly-valued forwards coach Gert Smal was then ruled out for the Six Nations due to an eye condition that prevented him from performing his duties.

Upon their return to Paris yesterday, Ireland endured an agonising draw after leading 17-6 at half-time as they sought only their second win in the French capital for four decades. However, events this time were shaped by their own inability to finish France off rather than a blunder by an official, making the outcome even harder to accept.

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