Tuesday 22 October 2019

Johnny Sexton the biggest doubt for Japan as Ireland hope to have Keith Earls and Rob Kearney available

Jonathan Sexton is a doubt for Ireland's clash against Japan
Jonathan Sexton is a doubt for Ireland's clash against Japan

Ruaidhri O'Connor in Shizuoka

Johnny Sexton is an injury doubt for Ireland's second World Cup clash against Japan on Saturday.

Along with Robbie Henshaw who remains highly unlikely to figure, the out-half trained away from the rest of the squad yesterday as he rehabilitated the quad muscle injury he suffered against Scotland on Sunday.

Henshaw's hamstring looks highly unlikely to clear in time for the game, but assistant coach Richie Murphy gave a positive update on the health of Joey Carbery, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney who all missed last weekend's win.

And the skills and kicking guru said Peter O'Mahony and Bundee Aki are available for selection after coming through their protocols after coming off with head injuries on Sunday.

With just a six-day turnaround between the Scotland and Japan matches, head coach Joe Schmidt has already signaled his intention to make changes to the side.

Whether he'll risk Sexton remains to be seen.

The out-half picked up an injury midway through the first-half and handed the kicking duties to Conor Murray before coming off as a tactical replacement in the second-half.

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"He got a bit of a bang on the leg and didn't feel comfortable to kick," Murphy said

"We had no problem passing to kicking to Conor, he's done it before. He's not a regular kicker at Munster, but we're happy to have him at No 2 on the pitch. Conor is disappointed he missed two, that's the way it goes it.

"Joey is our recognised goal-kicker, he'd be next in line (if selected). Our three 10s are our recognised goal-kickers.

"Conor is a very accomplished kicker, he hasn't had to do it often. He has a good process, happy for him to have the responsibility."

The return to fitness of Earls and Kearney means that Joe Schmidt has selection headaches after the performance of Jordan Larmour against the Scots.

"It's a good headache, having all the guys come in and do so well," Murphy said.

"The back three, some people outside our group were worried about the changes but we had faith and it just gives a good feeling when it goes well.

"Lads are happy, there's plenty of competition in the group for places."

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