Joe Schmidt confident Johnny Sexton will be fit for France clash

Ireland coach says Joey Carbery, Dan Leavy and Robbie Henshaw set to train next week

Joe Schmidt has confirmed Johnny Sexton is likely to be fit for Ireland’s clash with France. Photograph: Tommy Dickosn/Inpho

Joe Schmidt has confirmed Johnny Sexton is likely to be fit for Ireland’s clash with France. Photograph: Tommy Dickosn/Inpho

 

Although word is that Joey Carbery’s hamstring injury could sideline him for both of Ireland’s two remaining Six Nations games at home to France on Sunday week and Wales away six days later, Joe Schmidt maintained that the Munster outhalf is in line for a return to training next week.

Carbery was ruled out of Ireland’s third round win in Rome last weekend with a hamstring injury, but was at the squad’s open training session in Queen’s Universityon Friday where, along with Johnny Sexton, he was confined to some light running.

But while admitting Sexton was closer to a return to full training next week, and thus not a major doubt for the French game, Schmidt maintained Carbery could be back in training by Wednesday.

“They’re both on track, Johnny is certainly ahead of Joey. Johnny is going to be fine, he’ll train next week. We’re hoping that Joey will be fit to train, potentially on Wednesday.

“If he can train Wednesday and do Friday then that’s sufficient lead-in that he can be in contention, so we’ll just have to wait and see - more so on Joey, but we’d be very confident about Johnny.”

The squad have also been boosted by the presence of Dan Leavy, Robbie Henshaw and CJ Stander in their three-day camp in Belfast, even if Leavy took no part in the session at Queen’s and Henshaw was not in attendance.

The Ireland senior side and Under-20s shake hands following Friday’s training session in Belfast. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The Ireland senior side and Under-20s shake hands following Friday’s training session in Belfast. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

“He (Leavy) and Robbie Henshaw trained this morning, so we’ve got them on a slightly different programme. He, again, is on track to train potentially on Tuesday next week and hopefully he’ll train Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Robbie is on the same kind of path at the moment.

“It’s how they pull up after training this morning, they worked pretty hard this morning and we’ll get a better idea post that.”

Stander, who has recovered from a suspected fractured cheekbone sustained in the opening defeat against England, took a full part in training and although he appeared to have an ice pack on his cheek at one stage, Schmidt allayed fears over the Munster number eight.

“CJ is fine, he got a poke in the eye but that was fine. He’s running around refreshed; he’s very keen to be in the mix.”

As well as Carbery, Leavy, Henshaw and Stander, ther absentees from the match-day squad in Rome - Rory Best, Cian Healy, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Garry Ringrose and Jordan Larmour - were among the 21 players who took a full part in a 65-minute work-out with the Irish under-20s in warm sunshine.

The absentees at Queen’s from that Roman match-day squad were Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, John Ryan, Quinn Roux, Ultan Dillane, Jordi Murphy, Seán O’Brien, John Cooney and Andrew Conway. All bar Cronin, McGrath and O’Brien are scheduled to play for their provinces this weekend, although Schmidt said O’Brien would be back training with the squad in their Carton House base on Tuesday.

CJ Stander has returned to full training and is in line to feature against France. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
CJ Stander has returned to full training and is in line to feature against France. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

“Just the volume of work we want to do over the three days, we thought it was better that he spread his work across the week. He’s been in with us a lot, where we try to have a reasonably tight number at camp with us. With Seán, he was back with Leinster doing a conditioning week and he’ll be back with us on Tuesday.”

Reflecting on the Irish squad’s three-day get-together and specifically the typically full-on session against the Irish Under-20s, Schmidt said: “It was only 68 minutes, so just short of a full match. It’s great for us and it’s great for the 20s. I love having the 20s mixed in with our guys. We have lunch together now so the 20s get to know the senior players, they get to chat to them. Those small chats can help give confidence, help give a bit of direction and at the same time it’s great for them because we get to know who they are as well.

“If you look at the last two or three years and some of the guys who have come through from the 20s, the James Ryans, the Andrew Porters, the Jordan Larmours, those quality players. Even going back to guys like Garry Ringrose who has been an established player with us for quite some time, he was training with the 20s against us in these sessions.”

“It is a great way to get a volume of work done, it means we both have a slightly smaller squad. They had a bit of a bigger squad than us and it was fresh team on, fresh team off each time which was a really good challenge for our guys because they had to work hard.”

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