herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Sexton all clear

Jonathan Sexton (pictured) has been given the green light to resume full contact training with Ireland from Monday.

The out-half received the good news from his Paris-based neurosurgeon doctor Jean-Francois Cherman and the IRFU was sent official written notification from World Rugby.

Racing Metro were the drivers in establishing the three-month break from the game, putting the health of their highest-paid player ahead of their onfield interests.

Coach Joe Schmidt said on Thursday he was "very confident" Sexton would be available to take on France.

Sexton will have completed his 12-week sabbatical from match intensity on St Valentine's Day after suffering a fourth concussion in 12 months.

It leaves Ian Keatley in the precarious position of playing under even greater pressure.

Schmidt drew comparisons between Sexton and Keatley in how they have had to wait their turns.

"For a long time, he didn't get to start for Leinster, never mind Ireland," he said.

"He sat behind (Felipe) Contepomi. He sat behind (Ronan) O'Gara. He worked incredibly hard on his game.

"I think Ian Keatley has matured. It is a difficult task being a ten at high European level or at test level.

"You've got to control the game. You've got to make decisions on the fly and there is a degree of confidence and competence that comes from the experience and doing exactly that."

Keatley could conceivably keep the jersey if he turns in a stand-out performance on his first start in the Six Nations today.

It is more likely Keatley will have to step down to the bench or even out of the squad entirely because of the variety of positions Ian Madigan can cover.

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