Luke Fitzgerald in and Sexton fit to play

Joe Schmidt still has anxious moments to wait for his front row but his outhalf is fit

 Luke Fitzgerald returns to Irish squad after year disrupted by injury. Photograph: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Luke Fitzgerald returns to Irish squad after year disrupted by injury. Photograph: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

 

Luke Fitzgerald has joined the Irish squad for a couple of days in the build up to Ireland’s opening autumn international against South Africa.

Fitzgerald, who has successfully lined out for Leinster over the past few weeks after finally shaking off a complicated abdominal injury, came into camp yesterday along with tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong and South African born hooker Rob Herring.

It is anticipated that the trio will remain for just two days training, and while inclusion against South Africa is likely to be too early for Fitzgerald, it marks a positive step towards regaining his place on the Irish team following a year of frustration.

Sexton injury

Johnny Sexton

The news saves Joe Schmidt from having to select from the less experienced outhalves in the queue, the two Ians, Munster’s Keatley and Leinster’s Madigan, who would possibly go head to head with 20-year-old Handré Pollard, Patrick Lambie or Morné Steyn.

“I don’t think we were ever really concerned given that we knew he [Sexton] was going to play only a limited part in the [Racing Metro] game. He wasn’t going to play 80 minutes,” said Irish manager Mick Kearney.

“When he did come off after 40, we wouldn’t have had any great concern about an injury. There is a little bit of tightness in his thigh.”

When the Irish manager was asked whether Sexton believed that he will play against the Springboks, he answered “100 per cent”, adding the thigh issue was not a medical concern for Schmidt or a risk to Sexton’s fitness .

“No, I don’t think so. Obviously if we felt he could do more damage to it he wouldn’t be played. The medical opinion is that he’s fine to train today, for instance, and we don’t have any concern about him at this stage.”

Both first choice hooker Rory Best and tighthead prop Mike Ross are nursing injuries, with Ross expected to be fit. But there is some concern over the fact that he has not played a match since Leinster faced Munster at Aviva Stadium on October 4th.

The injury to Best’s calf, however, is not certain to heal in time for Saturday’s match. For the Ulster hooker it’s definitely a wait-and-see brief throughout the week.

“Rory Best has a tight calf and will be monitored over the course of the week,” said Kearney. “He will do modified work today and will be assessed as the week goes on.”

Scrum problems

Cian Healy

Having brought in Furlong and Herring, he now has four hookers at their training base in Kildare in Best, Herring, Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss, looseheads Jack McGrath and Dave Kilcoyne and tightheads Ross, Rodney Ah You, Stephen Archer and Furlong.

The Springbok front row that faced New Zealand in their last match on October 4th, winning 27-25, was Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis. All three are in the travelling South African squad.

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