Schmidt gives fitness update on injured stars and offers hope of a recall for Ian Madigan
Joe Schmidt is hopeful that Johnny Sexton and Sean O’Brien should be fit for Saturday week’s Six Nations opener against Scotland.
The two Leinster stars are the chief concerns for the Ireland coach ahead of the tournament after suffering calf complaints in recent weeks.
Schmidt hopes Sexton will be able to train at Carton House next week, while he says O’Brien is closer to a return and could train this week.
“Johnny took a bruised calf into the game against Castres and it just tightened up,” he said at this morning’s Six Nations launch.
“There's not a lot of damage there, nothing's showing up that's overly significant. Johnny's already starting back doing a little bit.
“We'd be confident he'll be able to train next week and therefore be fully available to face Scotland.
“Sean’s slightly further ahead than Johnny. We're confident he may train before the end of the week fully, but he should train fully next week."
Schmidt also confirmed that Munster’s Rory Scannell is the third choice No 10 despite playing most of his rugby at inside centre but said Ian Madigan remains in his thoughts should there be a further complication with Sexton.
“The first time I saw Rory play for Dolphin against Old Belvedere he had a fantastic game at 10," Schmidt said.
"There's a big difference between that and Murrayfield but he would be the guy who could cover there.
“We've also got Paddy Jackson available obviously.
“I've kept in touch with Ian. He would slot back in pretty seamlessly for us, so that's still something potentially that we could look at.”
Schmidt added that he hopes that Ireland can secure a top two finish in this year's tournament having finished third last year.