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Friday 15 December 2017

Sexton survives 66 minutes of Top-14 rugby before Racing back to Ireland

Jonathan Sexton, Racing Metro 92, in action against Clermont Auvergne
Jonathan Sexton, Racing Metro 92, in action against Clermont Auvergne

Jonathan Sexton came through 66 minutes unscathed for Racing Metro in the Top-14 on Saturday.

The Ireland out-half kicked two penalties in the 28th and 48th minutes and the conversion to wing Marc Andrieu's 56th minute try to eke out a 13-all draw with table-toppers Clermont-Auvergne.

It would have come as the single biggest piece of positivity for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt ahead of a blockbuster Six Nations international against England next Sunday.

The only real controversy came when referee Romain Poite timed-out Sexton for taking longer than the permitted 90 seconds over a first-quarter penalty.

Leinster scrum-half Eoin Reddan looked sharp enough to earn a recall to Ireland's bench in his 66-minute outing against Zebre on Friday night.

The Limerick veteran will contest the back-up role to Conor Murray with Isaac Boss, the man who replaced him.

With the exception of the outstanding Luke Fitzgerald, Leinster looked rather sluggish until the introduction of Ireland internationals Seán Cronin and Cian Healy prompted a sustained sharp rise in intensity.

Dave Kearney was also used off the bench from the 66th minute. It was his impressive display at full-back against the Dragons that earmarked him as a lively option for bench duty.

He is another one with a history of delivering for Schmidt as the ever-preset left wing in The Championship last season.

Munster loose forward Tommy O'Donnell was removed from the action with a worrying head injury in the 25-all draw at The Scarlets on Saturday.

It was just over two weeks ago O'Donnell stepped in for Seán O'Brien at the last minute against Italy and thundered through for a try from distance.

The Tipperary man must be considered as a possible replacement for Jamie Heaslip in what would probably lead to a back row reshuffle for England.

UTILITY

The Reds' full-back Felix Jones, utility back Keith Earls, loose-head Dave Kilcoyne and fly-half Ian Keatley all played out the full eighty at Scarlets.

Heaslip's exclusion could lead Joe Schmidt to use Iain Henderson on the blindside to counter England's bulk there and relocate Peter O'Mahony to number eight.

Ulster's Henderson got through 54 minutes of work at second row before being replaced by Lewis Stevenson.

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