Planet Rugby

Ireland reject Sexton injury fears

27th February 2014 20:10

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SKY_MOBILE Jonathan Sexton Ireland Six Nations

Johnny Sexton: Will he face Italy?

The medical teams of the Irish national side and Racing Métro hold conflicting opinions on Johnny Sexton's chances of facing Italy next week.

Sexton suffered a thumb ligament injury during Ireland's 13-10 loss to England last weekend. Sexton left Twickenham on Saturday with his hand in a splint and Racing head coach Laurent Labit said on Thursday that Sexton could be ruled out for between 10 days to six weeks.

However, a statement issued by the Irish Rugby Football Union later on Thursday forecast Sexton would face Italy in Dublin on Saturday, March 8.

"The Ireland medical team have had a consultant hand specialist review Johnny and his scans," read an IRFU statement.

"The ligament damage sustained does not warrant surgery and if Johnny continues his current rate of improvement we would be confident that he will be available for selection against Italy."

Sexton, who has won 41 caps, will miss Racing's Top 14 match at Castres on Saturday.

This is not the first time the French club have been at loggerheads with the Irish camp and the current situation follows Ireland boss Joe Schmidt's comments last November that Ireland had "lost control" of Sexton.

The 28-year-old playmaker suffered a hamstring strain on club duty in the middle of the November international schedule.

Schmidt had admitted on Monday he may have looked to rest Sexton against Italy even if he was was fully fit, meaning Ulster's Paddy Jackson could lead the Irish attack.

"One of the problems for us is making sure that Italy is our full focus and that it stays that way over the next few days and next week," said Schmidt.

"They have a very experienced, very powerful front-row and with Sergio Parisse at number eight he's one of the world's best anchoring that set-piece.

"Across the board I don't think we'll get anything easy against Italy.

"There's a real danger that there's an expectation we'll put a 10 or 20-point margin on them.

"All we want is a margin that gives us the two points for the win, and that will be tough enough.

"Ireland lost to them last year, France lost to them last year: there's a real danger in us looking too far forward.

"We've got to put ourselves in the position to be able to win the championship, and the only way we can do that is to beat Italy first and foremost."

Ireland's loss last weekend left them in a four-way tie at the top of the Six Nations standings with England, Wales and France.

However, Ireland - who conclude their Six Nations campaign in Paris on March 15 - have a points difference of +42 compared to England's +21, Wales' +6 and France's +1.

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