Saturday 23 March 2019

Ireland confident on Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw as Andy Farrell refuses to give up on Six Nations title defence

Jonathan Sexton meets supporters following an Ireland rugby open training session at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton meets supporters following an Ireland rugby open training session at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Johnny Sexton is on track to be fit to face Italy after returning to Ireland training today.

The out-half came off with a head injury during Saturday's win over Scotland at Murrayfield, but assistant coach Andy Farrell says he has no concussive symptoms since the game.

Robbie Henshaw is due to return to full training next week ahead of the trip to Rome but Farrell said Garry Ringrose remains a doubt and is being monitored over the weekend.

He was less upbeat about Tadhg Beirne's chances of returning.

None of that trio were part of the 19-man squad retained by Joe Schmidt for today's open session at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland face Italy in Rome on Sunday week.

"Johnny is fine. He trained fully (today). He will be ready to go," Farrell said.

"He is fine, he's had no symptoms at all. He's had no complaints throughout the week.

"The session was pretty intense and it was a good hit out for him. There as some contact, no too much, but there was enough in there. He would have been fine for this weekend.

"There are a few that we need to keep assessing.

"Robbie Henshaw will be fit to train next week, Garry Ringrose, we will just assess how he is progressing over the weekend. We will see where we are at next week with him."

Asked about the likes of Tadhg Beirne, Farrell said: "They (the injured players) have to get through the protocols in getting back to play. We are obviously in contact with the provinces all the time. He's progressing well, that's for sure."

The news is m ore positive on Iain Henderson and Kieran Marmion who return to action for their provinces this weekend.

"It's great to be getting players back. It's nice to get a boost throughout the Six Nations," Farrell said.

"At the start of the Six Nations when you have a couple of injuries like that it can be a bit of a loss but for fresh guys to come back in in fresh spirits will hopefully give everyone a boost."

Despite losing to England on the opening weekend of the tournament, Farrell said Ireland remain in the hunt for the Six Nations title.

"Of course it is. It has to be, doesn't it?" he replied when asked if retaining the Championship is a realistic goal.

"As far as we're concerned, it's about getting the job done for the next game and then about making sure we get the job done for the last two.

"I've been involved in six Six Nations now and you never know what's going to happen at any stage. Even though you would like a bit of momentum, it's not decided on the first week.

"There's lots of permutations that can happen and we need to be well placed to put our best foot forward when that arises."

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