'Johnny's hitting all his markers' - Schmidt not ruling Sexton or Kearney out of France clash
Joe Schmidt remains hopeful that Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney can be fit in time to play against France on Saturday week.
Neither player trained with Ireland in their open session at Monaghan RFC this morning with Sexton sprinting alone on the back-pitch and Kearney running behind the goal.
The coach was more confident that Sexton will be available despite his absence from the intense team session against the Ireland U-20s.
The out-half has not played since coming off with a calf injury during Leinster’s Champions Cup game against Castres, but Schmidt said he is “hitting his markers” despite not participating with the rest of the players today.
Kearney was forced off in last weekend’s win over Italy in Rome and has a bicep injury.
Schmidt was less confident that his full-back would make it, but is still holding out some hope that he return to training by Tuesday to prove his fitness.
Conor Murray also sat out training in Monaghan as Ireland manage his work-load, while Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson and Andrew Trimble took a full part.
“Johnny's hitting all his markers, he ran well today,” Schmidt said.
“It's an incremental thing. As long as you keep hitting your markers. So he did some high-speed running today, he'll do some volume running over the weekend, and then he should be fit to go in and out of training on Monday and then train fully on Tuesday.
“Those are the markers he's got to hit and he's hit them comfortably so far. We're not trying to over-accelerate that, we're being a little bit cautious and, therefore, we'll know by Thursday. If he completes training on Tuesday, we know that he's set to go.
“There always is. There's a small amount of uncertainty around Iain Henderson and Peter O'Mahony but now that they've trained fully and the nature of training today, we'd be really super confident that they are set to go. They both trained really well.
“Andrew Trimble trained really well today as well, so we are starting to get those guys back. Johnny is maybe three or four days behind them, that's all. We'd be very hopeful that we'll get that as well.
“Rob's hitting all his markers. We're probably quietly confident there more than overtly confident, but as long as he keeps going in the direction he's going, we'd hope that he'll take a full part in training on Tuesday.
“We'll get confidence from that, he'll get confidence from that and then we can roll into Thursday and into the match on Saturday, hopefully.”