Monday 25 September 2017

Sean O'Brien gives Ireland lift as Joe Schmidt picks from strength

Ireland could have full deck for French clash after Tullow Tank gets all-clear

Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony and Rory Best train together during the Ireland squad's session at Carton House. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony and Rory Best train together during the Ireland squad's session at Carton House. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt looks set to have a close-to-full-strength panel available to choose from for Saturday's Six Nations showdown with France.

Despite straining his hamstring in the warm-up before last weekend's win over Italy, Sean O'Brien took a full part in yesterday's squad training session at Carton House, meaning Rory Best is now the only major doubt.

And the Ireland management remain confident that the Ulster hooker will be available for selection despite suffering a concussion in the early stages of the second half at the Stadio Olimpico.

Best trained on his own yesterday and Sean Cronin is on standby to start but, despite Schmidt normal ground-rule that players must train on the Tuesday before a Test match to be considered for selection, he may make an exception for one of his side's key leaders.

Jamie Heaslip and Johnny Sexton are expected to come into the team from the start, while Cian Healy may make his long-awaited return from injury from the bench.

Schmidt must decide whether to start O'Brien or retain Jordi Murphy at openside. Eoin Reddan and Dave Kearney also trained yesterday, but could return from injury for Leinster on Sunday when they face Dragons.

"Sean took a full part in training today as did Jamie, Eoin Reddan, Dave Kearney. . . any of those guys who are carrying knocks," said Ireland skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy.

"Rory Best didn't. He's following the return to play protocols, the medical staff are happy with where he's at, but we won't know until later in the week. We won't know more about Rory until probably about Wednesday evening. I can't say whether he'll pick him or whether he won't. I don't know.

"Johnny is raring to go. It's a big test for him but the big benefit he has is that he's been training and he has his eye in. He has been doing a lot of skill work and all the non-contact work. It's not as bad as someone coming back from an injury where they haven't been able to touch the ball, I think he'll be ready to go."

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre names his team today and could recall Sexton's Racing Metro team-mates Eddy Ben Arous at loosehead and Brice Dulin at full-back, plus veteran tighthead prop Nicolas Mas and scrum-half Morgan Parra.

Irish Independent

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