Sport Six Nations

Thursday 22 February 2018

Sexton gets green light for return to face French

Out-half likely to come back into Ireland line-up as he and Kearney prove their fitness at training

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Johnny Sexton is set to return to the Ireland No 10 shirt against France after proving his fitness at training in Carton House yesterday.

Skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy said Sexton and his Leinster team-mate Rob Kearney are available for selection having taken a full part in the all-important session.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt rarely selects players who are unable to train on the Tuesday before a game, but he will be delighted to have had his hand strengthened by his talismanic out-half whose season has been disrupted by a succession of soft-tissue injuries.

Read more: Sexton fit for France but 'no divine right to selection'

Having injured both hamstrings in the autumn, Sexton was given a month away from the pitch to become more robust but when he returned he suffered the calf problem that kept him out of the opening Six Nations games against Scotland and Italy.

Kearney, meanwhile, has made a quick recovery from the bicep injury he suffered against the Italians and looks likely to keep hold of the full-back shirt if he shows no ill-effects in today's session. Conor Murray also trained fully having sat out some of last week's sessions with an adductor issue.

It is expected that he'll partner the experienced Sexton at half-back on Saturday despite Paddy Jackson's fine form and Murphy's assertion that the Leinster man does not have a "divine right" to selection.

Read more: 'Is he sixth or seventh choice at this stage?' - Neil Francis says young Munster star must wait for Ireland breakthrough

"He's been there, he's seen it all. He was a Lions winning out-half, he's won three Heineken Cups, he's won a couple of Six Nations, so that experience is invaluable for a player," Murphy said of Sexton. "Paddy's still only 24; numbers-wise they'd add up pretty well, but it's the bits in between. What makes a really good player?

"It's probably the case that 'what you see' is very similar, it's probably that Paddy is still trying to learn and get better - which he is - at the bits you can't see."

Irish Independent

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