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Sexton praises ‘incredible’ Ian McKinley as first Italy cap beckons

Ireland outhalf expresses joy as former team-mate continues his rise after eye accident

Benetton Treviso outhalf Ian McKinley in action against RC Toulon at the Monigo stadium in Treviso on October 21st. Photograph: Miguel Medina/Getty Images

The story of Ian McKinley continues to get better and the prospect of him facing Johnny Sexton next year has become a source of joy for the Ireland outhalf. The former Leinster player could be in line for his first international cap after being included in Italy’s squad for the November internationals.

An outhalf, McKinley lost the sight in his left eye six years ago in an on-field accident and was included in an extended training squad ahead of this summer’s tour but did not make the final cut.

But the 27-year-old Treviso player, who qualifies for Italy under the residency rule, has impressed Conor O’Shea sufficiently to be included in the squad for games against Fiji, Argentina and South Africa.

“It is a great story. I knew Ian well when he was with Leinster,” said Sexton this week. “I remember visiting with him after the accident to his eye. I remember being really sad for him because he was such a good guy.

Come out the other side

“To see him go through what he’s gone through and come out the other side and have the career he’s having now is incredible.”

It was a struggle for the Irish-born player and for a long time his career was under threat as rugby refused to allow him play until specific protective goggles were sanctioned.

Now, if he continues his rise he could find himself facing Sexton in next year’s Six Nations Championship.

“The way he’s playing he could definitely be involved in a green jersey,” added Sexton. “I caught up with him in Italy a couple of years ago when we were over. He was coaching at the time.

“It was around the time he was waiting for his licence for the glasses. He is one of the nicest guys you will meet. Whatever he decides, I hope it goes well for him. Either way, I just wish him all the best.”