Sexton passed fit as Earls ruled out of Samoa game

Knee injury sidelines Munster player but no concerns over outhalf’s stiff hip

Jonathan Sexton in action at an Ireland training session. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho. I

Jonathan Sexton in action at an Ireland training session. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho. I

 

Keith Earls has been ruled out of Ireland’s opening November Test match against Samoa with patellar tendonitis of the knee, but outhalf Jonathan Sexton will be available for selection for Saturday’s game at the Aviva stadium.

Ireland team manager Michael Kearney confirmed the news that the 26-year-old Munster player wouldn’t be considered for selection at a press conference following this morning’s training session at Carton House.

However Paul O’Connell (calf), Seán O’Brien (ankle), Cian Healy (knee) and Robbie Henshaw (hip) are all expected to train fully while Sexton’s ‘stiff hip’ which he suffered in the warm-up prior to Racing Metro’s 9-6 defeat at Biarritz Olympique isn’t a concern.

The Irish management was delighted that the outhalf didn’t see any game time having already played 13 competitive matches for his club this season.

Racing coach Laurent Travers when asked by a Midi Olympique reporter after the Top 14 match about why Sexton was not introduced from the bench responded: “He injured himself during the warm-up. I asked him if he could play but he replied, ‘no’. With a stiff hip, it would have been difficult for him to kick.”

The remark relates to two late penalties awarded to Racing, both of which were taken on by fullback Benjamin Dambielle, who had kicked a brace earlier in the match. He could not land either opportunity.

Kearney also confirmed that Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick and Mike Ross are all now fully fit. He waved away any fitness fears around Sexton, though, explaining: “He’s fine. He did some kicking practice with David Aldred last Wednesday.

“I think he did about two hours. He had a slight bit of tightness but nothing at all that is going to keep him out of training this week. He’s fine. He is good to go. Joe (Schmidt) alluded to that last week. Jonny came in last night and was in good form.

“Joe asked him how he was and he asked Joe what the opposite to ‘flat’ was. He’s quite bubbly and is certainly under consideration for this week. “

Wing Andrew Trimble, Donncha O’Callaghan and flanker Roger Wilson have been retained by Schmidt this week too.

The New Zealander has remained coy about the captaincy situation for the autumn so far, but Kearney confirmed centre Brian O’Driscoll is fit to fight for both a starting berth and the armband, after recovering fully from a torn calf muscle.

“Brian was flying last week and is in great form. He is fit and available for selection. Paul O’Connell has made good progress and has met all his markers to date.

“All of the other concerns from last week have cleared up; Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick and Mike Ross. They are all back and in full training.”

Meanwhile Munster have confirmed that O’Callaghan has signed a new two-year contract with the province, which will take him up to the summer of 2016. The 34-year-old, 94 times capped secondrow made his Munster debut back in August ’98 against Edinburgh Reivers.

He admitted: “I love playing for this team and representing my home club and supporters each week. Running out for Munster is something I’ve always wanted and I’ve been fortunate to make my career out of it, and to continue doing so for the next few years is just what I want. The main thing for me is that I still enjoy it and I have the opportunity to do it.”

Munster coach Rob Penney explained: “We are lucky to have someone of Donncha’s calibre and experience commit his future to Munster. He is great with the younger lads and drives everyone on. His own dedication and work ethic are an example to all and it’s good to know he is on board for another two seasons.”

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