independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Sexton injury scare ahead of showdown with Pumas

Before a ball was kicked in Ireland's 53-0 win over Fiji at Thomond Park last night, Declan Kidney had a fresh injury worry ahead of the important Test against Argentina on Saturday when Jonny Sexton pulled out in the warm-up.

"He picked up a bit of a groin strain kicking and we felt that it wasn't prudent for him to be there," Kidney said after watching a much-changed selection put eight tries on the hapless Fijians.

"We always have one or two guys on standby – they are never in the exact position you want, but Keith Earls could have stepped in there," Kidney added.

Earls wasn't needed on a night when the only threat was of being hit late by a woefully inept Fiji side who lost the plot a bit as the tries racked up.

The coach gave new caps to four Ulster players, three of them in the starting line up behind the scrum, and for wing Craig Gilroy it was a special night with a hat-trick of tries and the man of the match award.

"He seemed to enjoy it I suppose – Fergus [McFadden] will remind him that he was in the scrum that led to one of his tries," Kidney said. "It was a good team effort and for the wingers that's their job to finish off, but, fair play to him, he took his chances when they came his way."

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Ireland were out of sight at half-time when they led by 29-0. The challenge in the second half was to maintain some level of concentration.

"I suppose overall the first half went okay," the coach said. "The third quarter definitely died a lot and we'll have to look at that because that's the section last week that cost us too, but we finished strongly.

"I think the part that pleased me most was the defence. Even though points ahead, they defended stoically enough, even though we'll probably take a look at how we got into that position in the first place."

The arrival of the Pumas in Dublin this week will bring a challenge from a different planet compared to this canter.

Scotland's failure against the Springboks in Edinburgh yesterday makes it likely that Ireland will have to beat Argentina to hold on to their eighth place in the international rankings.

"Especially after Friday night's night result between Samoa and Wales – that just clears it," Kidney said. "We know we have to get a win to stay in the top eight position. It will be all to play for. We had good support here tonight and hopefully we'll get that again next Saturday against a tough Argentinian side."

It remains to be seen what, if any, part Sexton plays in that game.

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