Tuesday 12 December 2017

Johnny Sexton injury blow puts Paddy Jackson in prime position for pivot role

Johnny Sexton has an extra incentive to impress Joe Schmidt in this month’s international series
Johnny Sexton has an extra incentive to impress Joe Schmidt in this month’s international series
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

PADDY JACKSON is on standby to regain the Ireland No 10 jersey for Saturday's clash with Samoa after Johnny Sexton sat out training.

The Ulster fly-half looks set to get the nod ahead of Ian Madigan if Sexton does not shake off a hip injury he sustained in training last week.

The Racing Metro pivot strained the joint at kicking practice last Wednesday and, although he trained on Thursday and Monday and took his place on the Parisians' bench last Saturday, he has been unable to relieve the tightness in his hip.

Joe Schmidt warned last week that yesterday's training session would represent a cut-off point for any player struggling with injury and was boosted by the fact that Paul O'Connell, Sean O'Brien and Robbie Henshaw came through their first training sessions with the squad.

But Sexton's inability to tog out puts his participation in doubt as a result and, while it is believed he is pencilled in to start the clash with the islanders, the door is now open for Jackson to step in if needed.

Meanwhile, despite coming through training yesterday, O'Connell remains a doubt and the uncertainty over his fitness could undermine his candidacy for the captaincy for the November tests. Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip and Rory Best remain in the frame to lead the side out at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Given the clash is Schmidt's first game in charge and with Australia and New Zealand coming hot on the Samoan's heels, O'Brien said it is important not to get off to a losing start. "Obviously we don't – winning is the priority," he said. "If we perform well and we do our own jobs, hopefully, it will lead to the win."

Irish Independent

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