IRELAND have been dealt a blow with the news that veteran scrum-half Conor Murray has been ruled out of the rest of the autumn campaign because of a groin injury.
Murray won his 100th cap in the 19-16 victory over South Africa in Dublin on Saturday but the occasion was soured by a muscle strain that forced him off in the first half.
It means the Munster and Lions half-back will miss Saturday’s appointment with Fiji and the clash with Australia a week later.
Two more Lions are nursing injuries sustained against the Springboks with Johnny Sexton recovering from a dead leg and Tadgh Furlong receiving treatment for an ankle issue.
Neither player has been ruled out of Fiji’s visit to Dublin and centre Robbie Henshaw is also in contention after resuming training after being ruled out of the Autumn Nations Series opener by a hamstring problem.
Inside centre Stuart McCloskey is making encouraging progress in his battle with the arm issue that forced him off early on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell says there is more to rugby than “beating your chest” on the back of his side’s bruising victory over physical world champions South Africa.
Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus branded the Irish “softies” just three years ago but they produced an inspired defensive display to lay down a marker ahead of next year’s World Cup pool-stage clash in Paris.
Farrell dismissed the significance of Erasmus’ comments and believes recent form, including Saturday’s statement 19-16 success in Dublin, shows his side are focusing on their own strengths.
“I don’t make a big thing about it because I don’t want to get distracted,” he said. “I want us to bring our own physicality because we know how to.
“I don’t want to make the game too emotional because I want us to be accurate in what we do. I think the game has moved on a little bit now in as far as beating your chest and going out there and that’ll do.
“We’re trying to concentrate more and more on ourselves and I think that’s showing in how we’re playing at the minute.”
Tries from Josh van der Flier and Mack Hansen paved the way for Ireland’s 10th successive home victory.
Farrell has won 16 of 17 fixtures at the Aviva Stadium ahead of autumn appointments with Fiji and Australia.
The Englishman says making the ground a fortress has been a conscious effort and warned there is more to come from his squad.
“We expect it of ourselves,” he said of the enviable home record.
“We talk about it a lot and it’s pleasing that we’re able to back that up against a side that we really rate and that we’re going to be competing hard against over the next year or so.”
Speaking about beating the Springboks, he continued: “It builds on our confidence in different areas because it’s a different type of game than that’s been thrown at us over the past couple of years. That’s definite.
“But having said that, I think the belief was there anyway. We know from what we talk about and from what we’re trying to achieve in our preparation all the time there’s more in us and that’s the realisation.”
Victory over South Africa followed a historic summer series success in New Zealand to cement Ireland’s status as the world’s top-ranked nation.
Try-scorer Hansen, who capped the move of the match by diving over in the left corner, believes the Irish are unstoppable when in top form.
“When we’re doing our things right we know there’s not a team that can handle what we’re doing,” said the Australia-born wing.
“We’ve just got to keep sticking to our key principles and we’ll end up coming out on top.”