Sexton could return to face the French at the Aviva
Jonathan Sexton could be fit to play France after the IRFU revealed that his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury is "progressing well"
Sexton is expected to return to running this week giving him an outside chance to be fit for the clash with France at the Aviva on March 9.
The grade two hamstring tear he suffered in the defeat to England was expected to keep him out for up to six weeks but the injury update suggests he could return sooner
“Jonathan Sexton is continuing his rehabilitation on his hamstring injury and has progressed well to the extent that he is expected to run this week as part of his recovery programme,” the IRFU statement read.
His return would be a major boost to under-fire Irish boss Declan Kidney who chose to go with Paddy Jackson instead of 128-cap Ronan O'Gara against Scotland.
Lock Mike McCarthy is also rehabbing well from his medial knee ligament injury and “will be retested at the end of the week to assess his availability for the France game.”
Gordon D'Arcy was ruled out of the remainder of the Six Nations last week with a stress injury on his foot but he may now return for the clash with Italy in Rome.
The veteran “will be in a boot for another 10 days to rest the stress injury in his foot, at which point he will be rescanned to check on his progress."
Craig Gilroy suffered a sore groin in the Scottish game but should be fine.
Lock Donnacha Ryan will also need rehabilitation after injuring his shoulder but an MRI scan has shown that he has not suffered any serious damage.
Meanwhile, Ireland prop Cian Healy will have his appeal against a three-week suspension heard in Glasgow on Wednesday.
Healy received the ban for an infringement of Law 10.4(b) (stamping or trampling) in the match against England, but the IRFU's appeal “relates to, among other things, the specific period covered by the three-week playing suspension.”
Professor Lorne Crerar (Scotland) will chair the independent panel. He will be joined by Rod McKenzie (Scotland) and Antony Davies (England).