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Monday 18 December 2017

Johnny Sexton and Sean O'Brien ready for French exam

Jonathan Sexton during squad training
Jonathan Sexton during squad training
Ireland's Sean O'Brien in action during squad training

Sean O'Brien and Jonathan Sexton are 'raring to go' ahead of the Valentine's Day clash with France at the Aviva Stadium, according to Irish kicking coach Richie Murphy .

Sexton and O'Brien, as well as Jamie Heaslip, Isaac Boss and Dave Kearney, took full part in this morning's session.

Murphy was very upbeat about the prospect of Ireland being able to pick from a full deck for Saturday's second-round tie with only Rory Best, who is currently on the Return to Play programme, listed as a doubt and he will be assessed on Wednesday evening.

Murphy said of O'Brien: "It's a concern that he's been out for so long but it's not as if he hasn't been doing the fitness work.

"I think he's fitter than he has been for a long while, he looks very sharp and it's just a matter of seeing where he is at the end of the week."

Of Sexton, Murphy reported that he has been "itching to play" and that despite the 12-week layoff he has very few worries about his ability to perform at the highest level this weekend.

Read More: Conor Murray: We need Sexton back for French test

"He's been a little frustrated the last couple of weeks but he's got the all clear now and he's raring to go," he said.

"It's a big test for him but the big benefit he has is that he's been training and he has his eye in. He's been doing a lot of skill work and all the non-contact work.

"It's not as bad as someone coming back from an injury where they haven't been able to touch the ball, I think he'll be ready to go."

Murphy, who works closely with Sexton and Ian Keatley, is happy with how his kicking has progressed in training and doesn't feel the lack of game time will impinge on his accuracy on the big stage.

"We've done a nice bit of kicking and it's gone well, he seems to be in a very good position. He hasn't taken any match kicks but he but we're confident in his ability."

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