Tuesday 16 January 2018

Joe Schmidt sweating over Jonathan Sexton's thumb injury

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JOE SCHMIDT is sweating on the fitness of Jonathan Sexton ahead of Racing Metro’s Top 14 game against Castres this weekend as he confirmed the Ireland fly-half injured his thumb in the defeat to England.

The Ireland coach said that Peter O’Mahony had not torn his hamstring and hopes to return to training next weekend, while he added Brian O’Driscoll should overcome his calf cramp for the game against Italy next week.

As he picks through the debris of Saturday’s disappointing defeat at Twickenham, the coach spoke at the Aviva Stadium yesterday about the difficulty of making changes in the middle of the Six Nations.

He admitted that Sexton and O’Mahony are candidates for rotation as they try to overcome their knocks ahead of the meeting with the Italians at Lansdowne Road.

“Johnny’s hand is in a splint because he hurt his thumb. It wasn’t bad, it was fully functioning so he could still pass and everything. But, we’re going to get some more feedback on that over the next few days. Hopefully, he’ll be fine,” Schmidt said.

“He’s gone back to Paris, he’s there today and we’ve got some scans to be read as well and we’ll get some feedback on that and so, by Thursday, we’ll have some more information on that. I predict that he should still be available for the final two games.

“Brian O’Driscoll was cramp and he was walking fine after the game. He trained yesterday individually and should be fine. He actually hasn’t had much game time and is pretty fresh.

“Peter O’Mahony has no respect for his body, he has had a fantastic series so far. There’s a little bit of blood, but there’s no tear and those things normally clear up reasonably quickly. It’s a case of managing Peter this week so he can play next week.

Schmidt said he had spoken to out-of-favour winger Simon Zebo about what he has to do to get back into the side, but the indication was the Munster man has some way to go.

“Simon’s alongside a number of other players and is a player we are watching closely, I’ve had conversations with Simon – I’ve spoken to him recently. But, one of the things about selection is that we believe Dave Kearney has been outstanding so far.

“A couple of the aerial takes he made were outstanding, some of his ruck work was outstanding and in space and when there’s not space he’s been very elusive. Andrew Trimble on the other side has been very elusive as well.

“Both wingers have played very well and one of the other parts of the equation is, with Paddy Jackson on the bench, Fergus McFadden is covering 12, 13 and the wings with Dave Kearney shifting to full-back. That’s the selection conundrum as openly as I can explain it.”

 Schmidt all-but ruled out a Six Nations return for Tommy Bowe unless the Ulster winger can get some game time this weekend.

The squad re-assemble in Belfast tomorrow where they will begin preparations for the final games of the championship.

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