herald

Sunday 26 March 2017

Sexton likely to be put on ice until France as Ryan and Trimble passed fit

Andrew Trimble. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Andrew Trimble. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Jonathan Sexton has not yet been ruled out of making it to the Eternal City.

Ireland's new team manager Paul Dean, the former Ireland out-half and centre, had a list of casualties as long as his arm to impart to the media in Carton House yesterday, most of whom were declared fit for purpose.

However, the almost weekly inquiry into the availability of Sexton was met with a "wait-and-see" approach.

The man that was touch-and-go for Scotland, while deemed a possible risk for Italy, is unlikely to make the cut for Rome.

"Johnny is continuing his rehab and his progress will be monitored across the week.

"But he's back running which is very positive," said Dean.

The fact the IRFU medical staff have gone to such lengths to give Sexton the best opportunity to steer Ireland to the Six Nations title mitigates against taking a risk against Italy.

Quite simply, Ireland, however diminished by Sexton's absence, must trust Paddy Jackson.

Whether the Leinster fly-half makes it, or not, there is every chance Jackson will have a significant role to play.

Commit

Moreover, the Ireland coach always likes to commit his plan and players to training through the week.

Surely, Schmidt will be much more inclined to have his general ready for battle against France on February 25.

Flanker Peter O'Mahony only resumed running yesterday from his hamstring injury which would make him very unlikely to make it.

His athleticism in the lineout and leadership around the pitch were badly missed on Saturday.

Second row Donnacha Ryan must be a leading candidate to come into contention, having trained fully at the tail end of last week. The same goes for Finlay Bealham as the Connacht tight-head contests the back-up role to Tadhg Furlong with John Ryan.

First-choice Furlong has been cleared to train this week from a bruised shoulder suffered against Scotland.

"A lot of the guys were bruised mentally and physically after the weekend," said Dean. "Andrew Trimble has progressed well and is expected to train later today (Monday). Andrew Conway has rehabbed his groin issue and will train."

The much-mentioned delay in getting from the team hotel to Murrayfield stadium on game day was put down as an insignificant matter outside of Ireland's control.

"We were slightly delayed in getting to the ground, we took a different route from the one planned.

"That was enforced by the police.

"We had no control, these were circumstances outside of our control unfortunately," continued Dean.

"But we don't feel it did contribute to the performance on the day."

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