Saturday 23 February 2019

Joe Schmidt gives positive update on Johnny Sexton's fitness, the outlook isn't as good for second row duo

Ireland's Johnny Sexton. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland's Johnny Sexton. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton is expected to be fit to face England in their Guinness Six Nations opener at the Aviva Stadium.

Sexton, 33, has been recovering from a knee tendon problem, but trained for Ireland on Tuesday.

Head coach Joe Schmidt said: "He will train fully on Thursday, and we will then ramp up his training.

"Our expectation is that he will get through it without any problems. Johnny is confident and the medical staff are confident."

Schmidt, who revealed that injured second rows Tadhg Beirne (knee) and Iain Henderson (finger) are unlikely to feature until at least the penultimate round of the tournament.

"Iain could potentially make the last two weekends, maybe the last weekend. That would be quite tight," he added.

"Tadhg Beirne, on the other hand, should possibly make the third weekend and definitely the last two weekends.

"I feel bad for both of them. Iain Henderson, six weeks out, comes back with a man-of-the-match performance and back out again. A really unlucky injury.

"Same with Tadhg Beirne, he’s been so robust, so resilient, he’s played a lot of match minutes in the last three years. He was going really well in that game, got a couple of fantastic turnovers and then to pick up an injury is really disappointing for him."

Schmidt played down his side's tag as overwhelming favourites against England.

"I don't think we are clear favourites," he said.

"The psyche is one of enormous respect. You know if you don't get things right, England can get a long way away from you.

"They are a team back on an upwards swing, and they will be driven to rebound well from last year's Six Nations."

Schmidt revealed that when passing Eddie Jones in the venue for the Six Nations launch the Australian joked: "Get ready for a few grenades".

When asked to elaborate, Jones responded: "They're in Portugal, we're in Portugal. I'm going to the airport now and buying a pair of binoculars."

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