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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Joe Schmidt: I've no worries over Jonathan Sexton

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and Jonathan Sexton
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and Jonathan Sexton

Coach Joe Schmidt has backed Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton to overcome any doubts about his lack of game time on return from concussion.

"It is as much a risk as it is to start anyone else really," said Schmidt.

The professional environment is an unforgiving one where any perceived weakness will be targeted.

France are well within their rights to go after Sexton physically.

"Their tactics will be whatever they want to do and we'll have to counter them. We're prepared for the various tactics they may employ.

"No doubt, they'll use that narrow channel sometimes," he said.

The Ireland coach was adamant that his onfield general has the stamina to go the distance of 80 minutes against the French.

"I think one of the misconceptions is that Johnny's not fully fit. He's fully fit.

"I don't think he will drop off because a lack of cardiovascular fitness. He's totally fit from a playing perspective."

Just in case, Ian Madigan has won the tussle with Ian Keatley as the back-up fly-half for his versatility in covering a number of positions.

Hooker Rory Best "is totally asymptomatic and has ticked all the boxes of the protocols to return to play" according to Schmidt, to leave him free to start as long as he does not experience an adverse reaction to yesterday's contact session in the subsequent 24 hours.

The recovery of Best and the reintroduction of Seán O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip and Sexton adds experience and world-class quality to deal with the dangerous.

Schmidt is fully aware that Les Bleus have a decent playmaker themselves in Clermont-Auvegne's Camille Lopez.

"I think he's quite an intuitive, instinctive player and that allows him to play in a number of different ways," he said.

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