Italians smell blood as returning Sexton steps out again to rejoin swelling ranks of absentees
Jackson back in as scan reveals torn tendon in Sexton’s foot
Johnny Sexton gets in some training before hurting his foot to pout himself out of tomorrow’s game against Italy in Rome. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
If it wasn’t for Ireland’s bad luck of late, they’d hardly have had any luck at all; certainly not with regard to injuries. With a dozen Test internationals already laid low, it appeared this was to be offset by the return of Jonny Sexton, but no sooner was he named to face Italy at lunchtime yesterday after recovering from his torn hamstring than a scan revealed he has torn a tendon in his left foot.
Sexton had turned on his foot in training yesterday, to complete what has been a particularly trying time for both the Racing Metro-bound out half and Ireland .
A brief IRFU missive merely ruled the player out for this weekend, but medical opinion suggests he could be sidelined for up to four weeks.
In any event, Paddy Jackson will thus start his third Test in succession, with Ian Madigan drafted on to the bench again after
cameos at both inside centre and scrum
half last week _ which
rather sums things up.
The only change
The net effect is the only change to the starting XV which kicked-off last weekend’s draw against France sees the fit again Craig Gilroy return for the injured Fergus McFadden.
Donnacha Ryan has been passed fit to start, but such is his importance to the pack, and the lineout especially, Devin Toner has been promoted to the bench in place of Donncha O’Callaghan.
This further fuels the feeling the 2013 Six Nations is marking the end of an era, given the omission along the way of Ronan O’Gara, the injury to Gordon D’Arcy and the doubts as to whether Brian O’Driscoll will play again for Ireland after tomorrow’s tournament finale.
It will be of small consolation to O’Callaghan that, along with Andrew Trimble, he has travelled over with the 23-man match-day squad as cover .
With Paul Marshall joining Stephen Archer on the bench, were both to appear in the Stadio Olimpico tomorrow, it would take Ireland’s tally of player used in this championship to 33.
Although Ryan at least took a full part in yesterday’s session, Declan Kidney maintained “Devin Toner is a purely selection issue. The Italian lineout is very strong so it’s just prudent to have a balance on that side of things this time. He has been going well for us in training so it’s a recognition of both.
“It’s tough on Donncha,” admitted the Ireland coach. “It’s always tough on anyone, whether it’s their first cap or a 100th. I would say Donncha is a long way from his first cap. That’s just the selection for this match. There’s many more to come. He’ll be playing away next year as well and there’s nothing to say he won’t be in for the next match.”
The Irish have at least spread some good cheer, as they’ve been credited with bringing some sunshine with them on arrival yesterday at the sun-kissed Eternal City after days of heavy rain.