Sunday 18 February 2018

Johnny Sexton ready to return but Bowe a doubt for Aussie Test

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JOHNNY SEXTON is expected to return to Ireland training today as Joe Schmidt warned his players their performance against Australia needs to be "twice as good" as Saturday's comfortable win over Samoa.

Tommy Bowe has emerged as an injury doubt for the clash with the Wallabies after feeling a tightness in his lower leg after coming off during the second half against Samoa and was later using crutches, while Chris Henry is rated as a major doubt after suffering a suspected hamstring tear.

The full extent of their injuries will become known today.

Otherwise, the medical bulletin looks positive for Schmidt.

Captain Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll, Sean O'Brien, Cian Healy and Mike Ross all came through unscathed after recent injuries, while debutants Jack McGrath and two-try hero Dave Kearney made strong first impressions.

Schmidt has plenty of selection dilemmas as he prepares to pick his team for the clash with the Wallabies, who arrived in Dublin yesterday on the back of their 50-20 win over Italy in Turin.

Ahead of a sell-out meeting with Australia at Lansdowne Road next weekend, Schmidt called on his team to up their game after a performance he described as untidy.

And despite a strong display from Paddy Jackson, it looked likely that Sexton (above) will return if he can prove his fitness after missing training with a hip flexor injury.

"One great thing about Johnny is that he is well known to me, and Les," said Schmidt.

"We would have to strongly consider Johnny coming back in. He does bring that experience and that quality. He wasn't the starting Lions out-half for no reason."

Despite the impending arrival of the All Blacks eight days after the clash with Australia, Schmidt insisted his focus was totally on this week's task.

"Australia are the third-ranked team in the world, we're a fair way off that," he admitted. "We've got to maximise our performance next week. I can honestly say it (New Zealand) is not really in our mind.

"I know they're coming on November 24. It's tempting to start looking at them because I like watching them. But we've got to be Australia-focused.

"We are going to have to be twice as good as we were against Samoa. The Samoans had some good individuals but they were scattered in amongst some guys who hadn't played as much for them and that made them vulnerable, and we managed to profit from that."

Irish Independent

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