Dublin - Ireland playmaker Jonathan Sexton was given the all-clear to face
Italy in the Six Nations in Dublin this weekend after being included in
coach Joe Schmidt's starting XV on Thursday.
The fly-half's place
had been in doubt after he damaged thumb ligaments during Ireland's
13-10 defeat by England at Twickenham on February 22.
club, Paris-based Racing Metro, indicated he could be sidelines for
anything between 10 days to six weeks but this prognosis was quickly
dismissed by Ireland officials who insisted they were confident the
former Leinster star would be fit to face the Azzurri."It
was a sprained thumb, he finished the (England) game," said Schmidt in a
news conference broadcast on IrishRugbyTV. "There was bruising, and
"Look, I think one of the things is there's a bit of distance," the New Zealander added.
"There were some discussions with (Racing coach) Laurent Labit who was not in the country," the former Leinster coach explained.
"Racing have been pretty good value, they understand Johnny's a pretty important shared resource."
tournament leaders Ireland have made one injury-enforced change for the
penultimate round of the Championship, with Iain Henderson replacing
Peter O'Mahony at blindside flanker after Schmidt decided against
risking the Munster captain, suffering from hamstring trouble, ahead of a
potential title-decider against France in Paris on March 15.
Turning to O'Mahony, Schmidt said the back-row had been unable to train fully on Thursday.
"If this was the last game of the Six Nations we might have risked Peter. But there was a risk.
didn't train today (Thursday), and that was the difference. If he'd
trained fully we would have included him but he wasn't able."
Nevertheless, Schmidt added: "I'd be really confident for him about Paris next week."
for the 22-year-old Henderson, Schmidt said: "He's in good shape, he's a
good athlete, and we felt he made quite an impact when he came on
"He's got a really good future at both international and the provincial scene."
former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, in what is set to be his final
Test on home soil before retirement, is poised to set a new world
record for international appearances.
The Leinster centre will
take sole possession of a record he currently shares with former
Australia scrum-half George Gregan should he run out for his 140th Test
at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
O'Driscoll, whose tally includes
eight appearances for the British and Irish Lions, has already surpassed
former fly-half Ronan O'Gara's Irish record of 128 caps.
Ireland are in a in a four-way tie at the top of the Six Nations with England, two-time defending champions Wales and France.
Ireland have a massive points difference advantage, of +42 compared to
England's +21, two-time defending champions Wales' +6 and France's +1.
of the table Italy have lost all three of their matches so far this
Championship, albeit they only went down 21-20 to fellow strugglers
Scotland in Rome last time out.
15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy
Substitutes: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Rhys Ruddock, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Fergus McFadden