Monday 21 October 2019

Johnny Sexton on track to face France but Seán O'Brien among those who look set to pay price for Italy performance

Johnny Sexton signing autographs during a Ireland Rugby squad open training session at Queen's University in Belfast, Antrim. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Johnny Sexton signing autographs during a Ireland Rugby squad open training session at Queen's University in Belfast, Antrim. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Johnny Sexton is on track to face France in Ireland's penultimate Six Nations clash despite training away from the squad at their open session at Queen's University, Belfast today.

As Joe Schmidt prepares to bring Dan Leavy, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, Tadhg Beirne and CJ Stander back into the mix, the coach gave an upbeat assessment of Sexton's condition and said that Joey Carbery is still in contention for the Aviva Stadium meeting on Sunday week.

However, Seán O'Brien, Sean Cronin, Quinn Roux, Jordi Murphy and Ultan Dillane are in danger of being the main victims of the fall-out of Saturday's midsfiring performance against Italy.

O'Brien and Cronin were released to Leinster but weren't picked to play for them tonight, while the Connacht second-rows will face Ospreys tomorrow and Murphy starts for Ulster on Sunday.

Leavy and Henshaw are expected to train fully with the squad on Tuesday and could come straight back into the reckoning, while Sexton is also scheduled to train. Leavy has been out with a calf injury, while Henshaw had a dead leg.

Despite fears that he could be out for a lengthier period, Schmidt is hoping hamstring victim Carbery can train on Wednesday but Jack Carty ran today's session as both players did light running drills behind the goal.

Ringrose, Stander, Jordan Larmour and Beirne all trained fully.

"They (Sexton and Carbery) are both on track, Johnny is certainly ahead of Joey. Johnny is going to be fine, he'll train next week," the coach said.

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"We're hoping that Joey will be fit to train, potentially on Wednesday.

"If he can train Wednesday and do Friday then that's sufficient lead-in that he can be in contention, so we'll just have to wait and see - moreso on Joey, but we'd be very confident about Johnny.

"He (Leavy) and Robbie Henshaw trained this morning, so we've got them on a slightly different programme.

"He, again, is on track to train potentially on Tuesday next week and hopefully he'll train Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Robbie is on the same kind of path at the moment.

"It's how they pull up after training this morning, they worked pretty hard this morning and we'll get a better idea post that."

"CJ is fine, he got a poke in the eye but that was fine.

"He's running around refreshed, he's very keen to be in the mix."

"Just the volume of work we want to do over the three days, we thought it was better that he spread his work across the week.

"He's been in with us a lot, where we try to have a reasonably tight number at camp with us."

"With Seán, he was back with Leinster doing a conditioning week and he'll be back with us on Tuesday."

Schmidt's squad trained in the Belfast sun against a hungry U-20s side preparing for their own key clash against fellow Grand Slam chasers France.

"It was only 68 minutes, so just short of a full match. It's great for us and it's great for the 20s," he said.

"I love having the 20s mixed in with our guys. We have lunch together now so the 20s get to know the senior players, they get to chat to them. Those small chats can help give confidence, help give a bit of direction and at the same time it's great for them because we get to know who they are as well.

"If you look at the last two or three years and some of the guys who have come through from the 20s, the James Ryans, the Andrew Porters, the Jordan Larmours, those quality players. Even going back to guys like Garry Ringrose who has been an established player with us for quite some time, he was training with the 20s against us in these sessions.

"It is a great way to get a volume of work done, it means we both have a slightly smaller squad. They had a bit of a bigger squad than us and it was fresh team on, fresh team off each time which was a really good challenge for our guys because they had to work hard.

"The 20s are always pretty fit and enthusiastic, we enjoy those sessions. It's not a match weekend for us so it was important we did get a bit of volume of work done."

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