Sexton fit to face Italy in 6 Nations

Published Thursday, 06 March 2014
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Johnny Sexton has overcome a thumb ligament problem to start against Italy in the Six Nations in Dublin this weekend.

Sexton fit to face Italy in 6 Nations
Sexton will line-up against Italy. (© Presseye)

The fly-half, who sustained the injury during Ireland's slender England defeat last month, was named in Joe Schmidt's side for Saturday's penultimate round clash with the Azzurri.

Iain Henderson of Ulster replaces Munster captain Peter O'Mahony at blindside flanker to win his ninth cap, in the one change to the side that lost 13-10 at Twickenham.

It seems head coach Schmidt has opted not to risk O'Mahony against Italy, with a potential title-decider against France still to be played on 15 March.

Meanwhile former Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll will bring his total number of test appearances to a new world record 140 as he makes his makes his final bow at the Aviva Stadium.

Sexton's club Racing Metro last week predicted the 28-year-old could be out of action for between 10 days and six weeks - however Ireland backed him to return against Italy.

Joe Schmidt on Thursday said: "It was a sprained thumb, he finished the (England) game. There was bruising, and it's gone.

"Look, I think one of the things is there's a bit of distance. There were some discussions with (Racing coach) Laurent Labit who was not in the country."

Racing have been pretty good value, they understand Johnny's a pretty important shared resource.

Joe Schmidt

Schmidt revealed O'Mahony was unable to train fully on Thursday, leading to his omission for the Italy clash.

He added: "If this was the last game of the Six Nations we might have risked Peter.

"But there was a risk. He didn't train today, that was the difference. If he trained fully we would have included him. I'd be really confident for him about Paris next week."

The coach also believes 22-year-old Henderson will shine this weekend.

"He's in good shape, he's a good athlete, and we felt he made quite an impact when he came on against England," said Schmidt.

"He's got a really good future at both international and the provincial scene. There was a decent temptation to make a few more changes. We think there are players out there who have earned an opportunity, but we have to balance that with continuity that we've had.

"Some players had a weekend off last week with their provinces, and if they miss two weekends it wouldn't be the best preparation for France. I think the team we have selected reflects the respect we have for Italy."

The game kicks off at 2.30pm on Saturday.

Ireland team in full: R Kearney (Leinster); A Trimble (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), D Kearney (Leinster); J Sexton (Racing Metro), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D Toner (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster, capt); I Henderson (Ulster), C Henry (Ulster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), J McGrath (Leinster), M Moore (Leinster), R Ruddock (Leinster), J Murphy (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster), P Jackson (Ulster), F McFadden (Leinster).

© UTV News
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