Tuesday 20 March 2018

No 10 shirt is up for grabs, Joe Schmidt tells Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan

Johnny Sexton. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Johnny Sexton. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt could wait until two days before Ireland's first Test against South Africa tomorrow week to decide who replaces Johnny Sexton.

The Leinster out-half was one of four further players scratched from the injury-plagued three-match tour yesterday and will be out for three months as he awaits surgery on a damaged collar-bone.

Brothers Rob (hamstring) and Dave Kearney (calf) joined Leinster team-mate Luke Fitzgerald (knee) in casualty as uncapped Connacht duo Matt Healy and Tiernan O'Halloran, as well as Ulster wing Craig Gilroy and Bordeaux-bound Ian Madigan, were called up.

Jackson was snubbed throughout the Six Nations, with Madigan favoured for his ability to cover several positions in reserve, and Schmidt admitted that the choice is still a difficult one for him.

"Paddy and Ian have shared the time 50/50 in training, we actually haven't made any decisions at all," revealed Schmidt.

"The big advantage for Paddy is his form and regular game-time at the end of the season as opposed to Ian, who hasn't had that opportunity, but he's trained incredibly well in these two trainings that we've done.

"Those are the decisions that we'll make at the latest by Thursday, we'll try to give the 10 particularly an indication by Tuesday so that they get enough time in the saddle to really lead guys around.

"If it is Jacko it's a real opportunity for him to fill those big boots, that big jersey, but also to be himself."

Ireland captain Rory Best is confident his provincial team-mate can step up to the plate.

"The way he conducts himself around Ulster is learning from the way Johnny conducts himself in this environment," he said.

"He has the confidence of the group, there is no doubt. He has the chance to come in and show the form he had at the tail-end of the season.

"There is a real desire in the squad to do something special, there's a real drive to do that."

Irish Independent

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