Monday 23 April 2018

Sexton in late scare

 

Jonathan Sexton receives treatment from team physio Colm Fuller during the Ireland Rugby captain's run at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton receives treatment from team physio Colm Fuller during the Ireland Rugby captain's run at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Johnny Sexton is expected to be cleared to face Wales this afternoon despite giving fans a scare at yesterday's Captain's Run.

Rather than take to the field with his team-mates at the beginning of the final training session of the week at Lansdowne Road, the influential out-half remained sidelined as he received attention on his lower back from the medical staff.

Captain Rory Best later allayed fears that the Paris match-winner was a doubt, revealing that he had recovered to take a part in the latter half of the session and he was pictured taking kicks at goal after the team run had concluded.

If Ireland were concerned about Sexton's fitness, they would have withdrawn Ian Keatley from the Munster bench for last night's meeting with Glasgow Warriors, but the third-choice out-half took his place as normal.

"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," Best said of Sexton.

The out-half is pivotal to Ireland's chances of keeping their Grand Slam dreams alive after they lost three Lions from the team that beat Italy two weeks ago.

Despite the injury woes, Best says his team must take the game to Wales and produce their best performance of the season so far if they are to keep their winning run going.

Wales are in the last-chance saloon after losing to England a fortnight ago, but having recalled Lions Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams and Dan Biggar to his side, Warren Gatland is in bullish form about their prospects.

In contrast, Joe Schmidt has lost Iain Henderson, Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw since their win over the Azzurri. And Best believes that Schmidt's charges will need to be at their optimal performance levels to get the win they crave.

"We have prepared really well but experience tells us that preparation is just one little part of it," he said. "Ultimately, it is how you turn up tomorrow and put all these best-laid plans into practice and when you get into the uncontrolled environment of Test-match rugby, it is about keeping your cool, keeping your discipline, and when you get the opportunities it is about taking them.

"We need to make sure that mentally we are ready to go into a battle that is going to be this game tomorrow because Wales are going to come here and everything they have said so far suggests they are coming here expecting to win. We are going to need to be prepared and ready to play the best 80 minutes we have played this season."

Their main focus will be on unlocking a stubborn Welsh defence.

"Wales are a team that want to play. They are a country, traditionally, that want to go and play rugby," Best added.

"Ireland are the same now. A lot of it will come down to a physical battle.

"It will also come down to who wants to go out and take the game.

"Whichever country sits back and waits for the other one to lose it is going to be on the losing side.

"This is a game where you have to go out and take your opportunities and you have to take them with both hands. But, they are going to be limited."

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport