Jack Carty in line for first Test start against England at Twickenham

Johnny Sexton’s anticipated return to action delayed after he sits out training session

Jack Carty could be in line for his first start at outhalf in a Test match against England on Saturday after Johnny Sexton was one of a quintet of players who were rested from training at the Irish squad’s base in Quinta do Lago in the Algarve on Tuesday, thus placing in doubt his anticipated seasonal re-appearance at Twickenham.

The Ireland kicking and skills coach Richie Murphy confirmed that the 2018 World Player of the Year did not take part in training due to “soreness”, along with Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls.

It’s also understood that James Ryan’s training time was being managed after Murphy said the squad had “a really tough session” on Saturday and after a rest day on Sunday “we sort of ramped it up and had a good hit out with all of the squad” on Monday.

“This morning was a case of managing a few guys with a bit of soreness and the rest of the squad training hard for the game on Saturday,” he added.


“There’s no real fears about them, it’s just about managing them and getting their work-load right for possibly involvement this week and, if not, the following week.”

Murphy said that Joey Carbery was “doing really, really well” after undergoing an operation on the left ankle he injured against Italy and which has placed a cloud over his World Cup participation.

“Obviously, the time frame around his injury has been well stated. He’s recovering really well, he’s well into his recovery programme and, talking to him, he feels good and confident. He’s exactly where the medics would expect him to be at the moment.”

The likelihood is that Jack Carty and/or Ross Byrne will see game time in Twickenham on Saturday, given Carbery’s absence for four to six weeks means that the Irish management will either risk bringing a recuperating player or not select him altogether.

“We have left that quite open at the moment and we have conversations in and around the make-up of the squad,” said Murphy. “I’ve heard a lot of conversations around whether to bring three No 9s or three number 10s and how that breaks down. We’ll make an assessment a little bit closer, we’re not making assessments at the moment.”

“We’re just watching him [Carbery], keeping a very close eye on how he’s progressing. At this moment, we’re very happy with where he’s at but whether there’s a spot for him or not will depend on other players. Opportunities will go to the likes of Jack and Ross as well as Johnny getting game time over the next few weeks.”

The decision to cut John Cooney would seem to suggest that Kieran Marmion and Luke McGrath are vying to be Conor Murray’s back-up in the squad.

“It’s a decision that was based on what we’ve seen from the guys. We’re in a very lucky position that we have four really good scrumhalves and the feeling was that we didn’t have enough time to give four guys game time in preparation for the World Cup.

“It’s unfortunate for John, he’s the one that’s missed out on this occasion. But if something was to happen and John came back in we’d be very happy, because he’s a fantastic player.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times