Schmidt banking on Sexton fitness
Ireland are banking on Johnny Sexton to be fit in time for their Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday week.
Despite the Leinster out-half limping out of last Friday's draw with Castres with a calf injury, Joe Schmidt yesterday named him as one of just two No 10s in his 40-man squad for the tournament along with Paddy Jackson.
Sexton has been plagued with soft-tissue injuries this year and played a limited role in Ireland's November schedule as a result of his hamstring problems.
A month-long rest and recovery period that involved regular visits to the Santry Sports Clinic over the course of December was designed to get the pivotal 31-year-old over his issues, but having gotten through two games on his return, he felt tightness in his calf during the first half of the final pool game and withdrew from the action.
Cover at out-half is thin on the ground for Schmidt, who opted not to include Bordeaux's Ian Madigan in his squad. The former Leinster man has a club game against Clermont this weekend which may have influenced the decision.
Sean O'Brien, Keith Earls and Ultan Dillane are all included despite their recent injury issues, with Jared Payne and Sean Cronin missing out.
As revealed in yesterday's Irish Independent, Schmidt has included uncapped Munster trio Rory and Niall Scannell and Andrew Conway.