O’Connell and Murray injury blows for Irish

IRELAND have suffered a potentially shattering blow to their Six Nations hopes after captain Paul O’Connell and scrum half Conor Murray were ruled out of the rest of the tournament through injury.

O’Connell (right) sustained damage to his left leg during Sunday’s thrilling 17-17 draw with France in Paris which left Ireland trailing table-topping Wales by three points with two games remaining.

Murray, meanwhile, was stretchered off at the Stade de France with a knee injury and as a result Tomas O’Leary has been called up as cover, while Connacht forward Mike McCarthy has been drafted in as a squad replacement for O’Connell ahead of Saturday’s match against winless Scotland in Dublin.

In the absence of former British and Irish Lions skipper O’Connell, not to mention Brian O’Driscoll who has missed the entire tournament, hooker Rory Best is the favourite to inherit the captaincy for the remaining two matches of the competition.

“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.

“Conor Murray’s scan revealed bone bruising in the joint and while there has been no damage to his ligaments, the injury rules him out of contention for two games.”