herald

Sunday 25 June 2017

Sexton and Murray cleared to pick Grand Slam chasing England apart

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile

Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray have been cleared to fully prepare for England.

The Irish half-backs were a source of worry from Sexton's Head Injury Assessment and battered body and Murray's shoulder injury, described by Team Manager Paul Dean as a numbing stinger, from the Principality Stadium.

In addition, Jared Payne came through impressively for Ulster, albeit against Zebre, in the PRO12 League to mount a serious challenge to return.

The potential starting centre of full-back was joined out in Carton House by Ulstermen Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy, in for the injured Andrew Trimble.

Tommy Bowe was scheduled to see a specialist yesterday to confirm medical opinion of a fractured to his leg.

Replacement

Leinster's Fergus McFadden joined the squad for the first time in the Six Nations as a direct replacement for Bowe.

It will take every ounce of energy and millimetre of accuracy for Ireland to upset the champions at a packed-out Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

There is a theory out there somewhere in the air that Ireland have to move England around to take them out.

That is the last thing they should do.

This is a match in which scrum and lineout-into-maul should be used to tie in their forwards.

The last thing Ireland want to do is turn it into an athletic, endurance competition because they are not going to win that game.

No way. No how.

Cursory

Just a cursory look at the England replacements bench tells Joe Schmidt there is no way to tire them out because what will come on will be as good as what will be on.

It is not outside the bounds of possibility that all England's bench from Saturday's demolition of Scotland could be on the British and Irish Lions flight to New Zealand.

Dylan Hartley's understudy Jamie George is their best hooker.

Kyle Sinkler is about to take over from the ageing Dan Cole.

Billy and Mako Vunipola and Anthony Watson, on their way back from injury, are certainties.

Tom Wood, Danny Care and Ben Te'o are not exactly long-shots either.

They will probably be more subject to the politics of finding room for all four nations rather than their individual merit.

Whether coach Eddie Jones will rotate one or more of these into the first fifteen will be interesting, not to mention influential.

Ireland have to tie the big men in and pick at the weak points Schmidt will have identified.

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