IRFU ‘confident’ Johnny Sexton can face Italy

Racing Metro coach said Irish outhalf could miss six weeks with thumb injury

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton struggling with an injured thumb. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton struggling with an injured thumb. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho


Joe Schmidt remains hopeful Johnny Sexton will be fit to face Italy, despite the worrying prognosis that emerged from Racing Metro 92 earlier on Thursday.

After Racing coach Laurent Labit told a press conference the outhalf returned to Paris after the 13-10 Six Nations defeat to England with a thumb injury that may require ‘between 10 days and six weeks’ on the sidelines, the IRFU this evening moved to quell fears the former Leinster outhalf may miss the rest of the tournament.

Sexton, a statement confirmed, does have a ligament injury in his thumb, but it “does not warrant surgery” and if he “continues his current rate of improvement we would be confident that he will be available for selection against Italy.”

That expectation is based on the opinion of a “consultant hand specialist” brought in by the IRFU medical team and would seem to dispel fears, for now at least, that Sexton’s Six Nations might be over with Ireland still top of the table and in the hunt for silverware with just two games to go.

Sexton will definitely miss his French club’s Top 14 game against Castres Olympique on Saturday and if his current progress does not continue it will likely provide an Irleand opportunity for Ulster outhalf Paddy Jackson, who has deputised for the number 10 in the three Six Nations games thus far, and featured in each one, albeit for just 48 seconds on the wing in London.

He will have a chance to impress Schmidt when he starts for Ulster against Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill tomorrow night.

Ian Madigan may get an opportunity on Saturday night when Leinster take on the Glasgow Warriors at the RDS, but Matt O’Connor won’t confirm his team until tomorrow lunch time.

Brian O’Driscoll took some part in Ireland training today “but did his conditioning work off-feet to facilitate his continuing recovery” from a cramp he suffered at Twickenham.

Flanker Peter O’Mahony’s hamstring injury in “improving” and he is expected to begin running over the weekend, but wing Andrew Trimble “took a knock to his knee” in Belfast today and withdrew from the session.

“ Initial review revealed no immediate concerns” and it will be assessed again tomorrow.

Ireland’s defeat to England last Saturday left them locked in a four-way tussle for the championship. England, Wales and France can all still claim the crown, with Schmidt’s side eyeing glory should they see off Italy and then the French in Paris on the final weekend.

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