Ireland benefit as France and Argentina lose key players

Ireland’s group of death has become a fraction easier as Ireland’s key rivals have been hit by injuries to key players, although as ever, it will be a shame not to see all the best players on display.

Sylvain Marconnet, the French prop, will be kicking himself (if he could) after breaking his leg on a skiing trip in March.  Bernard Laporte had hoped that he would recover in time, but he has now been replaced by Nicolas Mas of Perpignan, who has 10 caps to his name.

Argentinian Martin Gaitan will also miss the World Cup after suffering a heart attack.  The Biarritz centre played the whole game against Wales at the Millennium Stadium, but was taken to hospital in the evening complaining of chest pains.

Ireland, meanwhile, are also fortunate that their World Cup campaign begins with minnows Namibia and Georgia before facing the big guns – this gives captain and team inspiration Brian O’Driscoll time to recover from a fractured cheekbone, inflicted by a punch from Bayonne lock Mikaera Tewhata.