Sexton to miss Italy match with Donnacha Ryan set for recall
Ryan to come in to Ireland secondrow while Peter O’Mahony will not be risked
Donnacha Ryan is expected to resume his partnership with Devin Toner against Italy. Photograph: Inpho
A recall for Donnacha Ryan is set to be the only change from the starting line-up in last Saturday’s opening Six Nations defeat to Scotland when Joe Schmidt names the Irish side to face Italy next Saturday at around lunchtime on Thursday.
Iain Henderson is expected to revert to the bench, with Ultan Dillane missing out, while the signs are that neither Johnny Sexton (groin strain) nor Peter O’Mahony (hamstring strain) will be risked this week in the hope that both will be fully fit for the pivotal round three game at home to France a fortnight hence.
Ryan, the 33-year-old Munster lock has been playing some of the best rugby of his career this season, and started both autumn tests against New Zealand before Iain Henderson’s promotion for the Australian game. He was ruled out of the Scottish game due to a knee ligament strain.
Fully recovered from that “minor niggle”, Ryan now looks set to be recalled. Aside from providing another experienced lineout option, in the continuing absence of O’Mahony he will also give the Ireland pack an element of Munster dog, all the more important for a set-to with the Azzurri forwards.
Although Finlay Bealham has also resumed training, the expectation is that John Ryan’s strong scrummaging will again be retained on the bench, all of which is on the proviso that Tadhg Furlong is passed fit after sitting out training earlier this week with a “bruised shoulder”.
Andrew Trimble has also resumed full training this week, and may also force his way into the matchday squad, perhaps at the expense of Tommy Bowe on the bench, with Simon Zebo and Keith Earls retained.
As for the Italians, it is anticipated that their hugely influential captain and talisman Sergio Parisse will be passed fit to lead them in the Stadio Olimpico after recovering from the neck injury he sustained following a nasty fall last week.
The experienced flanker Simone Favarro is also expected to be passed fit and return alongside Parisse in the back row, with the South African-born flanker Adriaan Steyn dropping to the bench.
IRELAND (possible): R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), T Furlong; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
Replacements: N Scannell, C Healy, J Ryan, I Henderson, J van der Flier, K Marmion, I Keatley, A Trimble.