Sport Rugby

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Sexton a major doubt as Schmidt ponders reshuffle

Jonathan Sexton is tackled by Tomás De la Vega of Argentina during the first Test of Ireland's summer tour. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Jonathan Sexton is tackled by Tomás De la Vega of Argentina during the first Test of Ireland's summer tour. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is contemplating changes ahead of next week's second Test in Tucuman as he sweats over the fitness of Johnny Sexton.

While Conor Murray left the Estadio Centenario on crutches with ice being applied to his dead leg, his half-back partner is the greater doubt for the return fixture against the Pumas after limping off with a tight quad muscle after an excellent display.

Rob Kearney is likely to come back in for Saturday's game after sitting out the first Test, while Rhys Ruddock, Noel Reid and Eoin Reddan will also come into contention along with Ulster's Rob Herring and Munster loosehead James Cronin.

Having come off the bench in the first Test win, Fergus McFadden, Devin Toner and Jamie Heaslip will all be pushing for a starting spot, with McFadden in contention for a move into the centre, having replaced Luke Marshall there on Saturday.

Schmidt is hopeful that both his half-backs will overcome their injuries and that he will have a full squad to pick from this week. An update is expected today.

"We'd expect that there will be changes. We'll have a look at who came through today over the next 48 hours," the New Zealander said.


"We won't do a lot tomorrow, a little recovery and back to Buenos Aires. We'll try and make some decisions on Wednesday."

Only time will tell how much Ireland will have gotten out of Saturday's game against a weakened Argentina team, but they got life after Brian O'Driscoll under way with a win. Darren Cave was "pretty chuffed" with his day in the No 13 jersey and wants another crack.

The Ulsterman was singled out for praise by the coach after making a number of breaks and linking well with Sexton, even if he conceded that his performance wasn't unblemished.

"It's nice to be in the changing room when Paul O'Connell is speaking. It's nice to be outside Johnny Sexton ... I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot and I'd love the opportunity to do it again," he said.

"We've got a few things to work on," he added, citing first-up tackles as an area ripe for improvement.

Cave almost got over for a second-half try after an O'Driscoll-esque piece of brilliance from Simon Zebo, who played well in parts, but still has work to do to impress Schmidt.

"He's a fantastic footballer," O'Connell said. "He looked really good, the offload for the try to 'Cavey' is probably the easy part for Zeebs, it's the few other things that Joe is adamant about that he needs to work on."

When asked about the winger's contribution, the coach simply replied: "Yeah, Simon was alright."

Argentina, meanwhile, have suffered a major blow with news No 8 Benjamin Macome is out of the second Test having broken his arm.

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