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Thursday 21 September 2017

Sexton loss a huge blow for Joe

O'Mahony also ruled out as Jackson makes step-up

Out-half Jonathan Sexton has been ruled out of Ireland’s opening Six Nations match
against Scotland Picture: Sportsfile
Out-half Jonathan Sexton has been ruled out of Ireland’s opening Six Nations match against Scotland Picture: Sportsfile

There you have it. The hopes and dreams of a nation which hung so fittingly onto Jonathan Sexton have been removed by a calf injury. Just like that.

Forwards coach Simon Easterby was the messenger sent forth to deliver a crushing blow to Ireland's ambition for a third Six Nations title in four years.

"We believe it right not to push him through the week and risk potential further damage," he reported.

Coach Joe Schmidt has always been slow to issue the full story about the fitness of his players.

This is completely understandable in the scheming, plotting world in which he works.

You give the opposition less than nothing.

Just not in this case.

"It's just a case of having certainty," added Easterby.

"When players are ruled out, they're ruled out, that's a fact of life.

"If in the past, it's been on a Thursday, there's been a reason for that, because they've potentially been able to play.

Preparation

"I suppose it's a case of we want to give the players who are involved in the 23 the best preparation.

"A player who is maybe not sure whether he's in or out, either on the bench or not at all, it can cause a bit of uncertainty.

"The first week of the championship, we just want to be clear about what we're going to do well and take away as many of Scotland's threats as we can."

Our King is off his throne.

Paddy Jackson will willingly step up to the plate and Ian Keatley will be his most likely back-up.

"Paddy has proven himself over a number of months and also going back to the summer that he can control the side and dictate the play," said Easterby.

"I think he has his responsibility which is big in this team, a responsibility to run the game, to run the plays, to know roughly what field position we want.

"He has been in this system and this group for longer and it allows him to be much more confident.

"The lads around now look to him when he is speaking.

"That is the mark of someone who has everyone's ear and the mark of someone who can take the team forward and be that go-to which most teams want their ten to be.

Easterby took a pragmatic view on what is a body blow to Ireland.

"Any player goes through periods where they have a number of injuries and we are fortunate that we have good guys who can come in and be competitive in that position.

"We are blessed with those tens that are available to us," he argued.

"Johnny is obviously unavailable. That happens. The longer we linger on it the less effective we can be so we have to move forward."

The case for the call out to Ian Madigan as third choice has not been convincing enough.

"It is based on last week and on the fact that he couldn't be with us.

"He played some part in Bordeaux's game against Clermont and, moving forward, it is case by case.

"But, we want to try and support those guys who are playing their rugby in Ireland.

"There will potentially be exceptions to that rule.

"But, as it happens at the moment, this is the case and there isn't any issue in terms of us looking at Mads in the future."

All the positivity about Ireland's injury profile going into the Six Nations has been undermined by the loss of their main man.

No guarantee

There was also no guarantee forthcoming about Sexton's availability for the second round in Italy.

Furthermore, Munster's Peter O'Mahony and Ulster's Andrew Trimble have given way to their bodies too.

"They both picked up a little bit of tightness yesterday (Monday), Pete in his hamstring and Andrew in his groin.

"Peter has a scan this afternoon that will hopefully give us an indication for the reason for that tightness."

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