Rory Best eases fears after Johnny Sexton back injury scare
Ireland captain Rory Best has eased fears about Johnny Sexton's fitness on the eve of the crunch Six Nations battle with Wales.
The out-half sat out the early part of the Captain's Run at Lansdowne Road this morning to receive extra treatment on his lower back, but the skipper says he joined in the session at a later point and trained fully.
With Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw already out of the game due to injuries they suffered against Italy two weeks ago, Ireland cannot afford to lose another leading light ahead of the game against a confident and in-form Welsh side.
Sexton has had hamstring and lower back issues as recently as last season, but has been enjoying a long, injury free run in this campaign and was Ireland's match-winner.
Joey Carbery is providing back-up for his Leinster colleague despite a lack of recent game-time at No 10, while Ian Keatley has been released to sit on the Munster bench against Glasgow at Irish Independent Park this evening.
Unless he is withdrawn from the Munster team, it's reasonable to expect that Sexton will be OK and Best believes that his team-mate will be cleared to start.
"He was grand, it's just that he's just getting a bit older, so he needed a bit longer to warm up, but he came into the tail-end of the session. He let the subs run at the start and then the starters finished off. No concerns," he said.
In the build-up to the game Wales coach Warren Gatland dismissed the idea that Ireland are the best team in the Championship, but Best said the players are unconcerned by the feelings of the New Zealander.
"Look I think he's entitled to his opinion. He's coming off the back of having just played England and their record over the last two years speaks for itself," he said.
"But we'll not really pay any heed to that. We'll hope that through our performances tomorrow that we can change his mind.
"And if it doesn't change his mind tomorrow but we win, we'll not really be that bothered."
Wales have not lost a Six Nations game against Ireland since 2014, but Best dismissed the idea that they are a bogey team for his side.
"I don't think so. There's been some really tough games," he said.
"The game last year was a one-score game right up until the end.
"The maul try that got penalised, it doesn't matter now, but when you're playing the top teams it's down to fine margins.
"Last year we lost a couple of those through our own doing and also good play by Wales.
"We've got to win as many of those battles as we can tomorrow."