Friday 9 December 2016

Johnny Sexton ‘absolutely fine’ to face England

Published 22/02/2016 | 15:02

Johnny Sexton
Johnny Sexton

The fitness and physical well-being of Ireland out-half Johnny Sexton has been one of the talking points of the Six Nations, but management have no doubts regarding the play-maker ahead of Saturday’s showdown at Twickenham.

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Joe Schmidt’s side go to the contest seeking their first win of the campaign after an opening draw with Wales and a one-point defeat in Paris last time out, while Eddie Jones’ Grand Slam and championship ambitions remain on course after victories over Scotland and Italy.

Despite battling with a crippling injury list, Jones has conceded Saturday’s game will represent the strongest test of his tenure to date as the reigning champions look to revive their own feint title hopes.

Ireland team manager Mick Kearney dismissed any doubts surrounding Sexton after he was again forced from the field of play after shipping some heavy knocks against Les Bleus.

Lock Yoann Maestri escaped a ban despite being cited for a cynical off-the-ball shoulder charge, when he also appeared to raise an elbow, which laid out the former Racing Metro player during the 10-9 victory, while Schmidt highlighted a number of “cheap shots” in his post-match analysis.

Sexton has been the focus of much attention after a number of head injuries and has not finished 19 out of the last 22 Test matches he has started.

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Kearney’s only fears were after an injury sustained in training but is confident the Leinster star will be ready for Twickenham.

“He's very good…he's absolutely fine,” Kearney confirmed.

“He rolled his ankle in Mullingar and he was taken out of the session purely as a precaution. He's in and will train fully today,” Kearney confirmed.

Meanwhile Conor Murray is confident that Ireland’s attack, which came in for criticism in the Stade de France, is not a cause for concern and pointed to the draw against Wales as evidence that there is serious potential in their backline.

“Without making excuses, the weather was poor against France,” the scrum half said today. “Against Wales the game was open and we made seven line breaks. I think we made maybe one against France. We played well, countered and it was a great team performance.

“In France it was a slower game. Conditions kind of dictated that. At the same time we hold ourselves to higher standards and we should have been able to take those chances. It’s a big focus for us this week.”

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