Six Nations

Battered Sexton should be back for Italy trip

2019-02-10 16:14
Johnny Sexton (Getty Images)
Johnny Sexton (Getty Images)

Edinburgh  - Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is confident playmaker Johnny Sexton will return for the reigning Six Nations champions to "kick on" with the defence of their title against Italy in Rome on February 24.

World player of the year Sexton lasted only 24 minutes, after suffering a stamp on the ankle and a head injury, as Ireland bounced back from their opening weekend home loss to England with a 22-13 victory against Scotland at Murrayfield.

The 33-year-old Leinster flyhalf, who had been out of domestic action with a knee tendon injury before the England game, suffered a succession of knocks as he tried to orchestrate the opening stages of a bruising contest and ultimately failed a head injury assessment test.

"Johnny hit the ground quite hard in the lead up to our second try and he failed an HIA," said Schmidt.

"But he's pretty good now. We're confident that he will bounce back quickly.

"He also copped a stamp on the ankle. I don't even think it was a Scottish foot -- I think it was one of our guys who tripped over him.

"It was a little bit cumulative really. We're always going to err on the side of caution with those because we want to look after people.

"His ankle's very swollen now but it is just swelling. You can see the graze down his leg. So, from that perspective, he'll bounce back from that pretty quickly as well."

Tries from Sexton's half-back partner Conor Murray and wingers Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls made sure that Schmidt's side succeeded in bouncing back from the crushing disappointment of their 32-20 loss to England.

They also became the first visiting side to win a Six Nations contest at Murrayfield since England's 15-9 success on February 6, 2016, ending Scotland's run of seven successive home wins in the championship.

"There was definitely a rise in temperature, an increase in energy," said Schmidt.

"We just lacked a bit of energy last week. We've got to make sure we kick on from here. We're relying on other people now.

"The thing we don't have to rely on other people for is how we prepare ourselves and how we get out and play the week after next, and then in the final two rounds (against France at home and Wales away)."

Having opened their campaign with a 33-20 home win against Italy, Scotland also remain in contention for the Six Nations title, though next up for them on February 23 is a trip to face France in Paris, where they last triumphed in 1999.

They could also be without their talismanic fullback Stuart Hogg, who had to be replaced in the 16th minute after suffering a shoulder injury in the lead up to the second Irish try.

"He's very sore," said Scotland coach Gregor Townsend.

"He wanted to stay on but his shoulder was not right. We'll see what will happen over the next couple of days.

"It's going to be a huge challenge in Paris. We haven't won there for 20 years, but I believe in our squad.

"I believe that the way we play will put pressure on any team, whether we're playing at home or away."

Read more on:    ireland  |  six nations  |  johnny sexton  |  rugby


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