Friday 23 March 2018

Ireland hoping Sexton will return

Jonathan Sexton limped off with a hamstring injury against Australia
Jonathan Sexton limped off with a hamstring injury against Australia

Ireland still hold out hope Jonathan Sexton can beat his hamstring injury in time to face New Zealand on Sunday.

Racing Metro fly-half Sexton limped out of Ireland's lacklustre 32-15 Australia defeat at half-time on Saturday.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has already given 28-year-old Sexton a target of training twice this week to prove his fitness for Ireland's final Guinness Series autumn international.

And Ireland team manager Michael Kearney confirmed on Tuesday that scans have shown the injury to be "less worrying that initially feared".

Leinster wing Fergus McFadden will be injured for a "number of weeks" though, after fracturing a bone in his hand against Australia.

Centre Brian O'Driscoll will equal Ronan O'Gara's 128-cap Ireland appearance record if he takes the field against New Zealand this weekend.

Ireland have never beaten New Zealand and this will be O'Driscoll's final chance, given his impending retirement at the end of the season.

The 34-year-old said Ireland are furious with their lack of intensity in four-try Australia defeat - and pledged they will channel that anger into facing the All Blacks.

O'Driscoll said: "The anger part is in ourselves, knowing we've performed well below par.

"That's an annoyance or an anger and different people will use that as motivation to get it right.

"That intensity was lacking a bait, but when it's been put to you by your coaches or peers I think there will be no shortage of it again this weekend.

"For me it's definitely a motivating factor, I like to think I have standards of a certain level and if you dip below them, the next time you pull a jersey on you have to put that right - that's this weekend."

Full-back Rob Kearney is still expected to recover from the rib injury suffered in the closing stages against Australia.

But Felix Jones has been called into training as cover, while Darren Cave has been added to the squad as a precaution for O'Driscoll.

O'Driscoll said he felt "tightness" in the calf that has sidelined him for all-but three games already this season - but expects to be fit for the weekend.

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