Ireland team manager Michael Kearney has said that Jonathan Sexton, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip will have to prove their fitness ahead of next Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations encounter with Wales.
Jonathan Sexton sat out training in Belfast last week after being released back from Racing Metro 92. The out-half injured his hamstring in Ireland’s 19-9 victory over England and did not take a full part in training today.
Michael Kearney gave a positive update, however, stating: “Johnny Sexton continues to improve following a mild hamstring strain. As a precaution he will have modified training during the early part of the week with an expectation that he will train fully towards the end of the week.
“We are very happy where he is at, at the moment. He has hit all his markers so far. Johnny will have modified training today. From what I remember the last time he had a (hamstring) problem was between the Australia game and New Zealand game, last November 12 months.
“He actually recovered pretty quickly then. He came off at half-time against Australia and was fit to play and played the whole game, or most of the game, against New Zealand without any issue. That certainly wouldn’t be a worry at the moment.”
Sean O’Brien and Jared Payne were concussed against England and are finishing up the return-to-play protocols. Meanwhile, Jamie Heaslip, who missed the game against England due to a back injury, is also looking to return to action this week. The Ireland management team hope all four will recover in time for the crunch clash with Wales.
“That would be the hope (that Sexton would be available against Wales) but again, he will have modified training in the early part of the week and if he comes through training through the latter part of the week, as in the case with Jamie, Sean and Jared, they will be available for selection,” added Kearney.
“Jamie is expected to train fully this week and barring any setback will be available for selection. He hasn’t taken any contact yet. He will train fully today and provided there is no reaction he should be available for selection.
“Sean O’Brien and Jared Payne have both progressed well through the return-to-play protocols and will be reintroduced to full training during the week. Up to date they have (cleared the protocols).”
Kearney also spoke about the preference of the Irish management to play the game with an open roof in Cardiff on Saturday but will make a decision closer to the time.
“We are waiting to see what the weather forecast turns out like. We don’t have to make a decision on that until 7pm on Thursday. We will wait until then before we make a final decision.
“I think, overall, our preference would be for a dry day and decent weather, rather than wet and miserable weather. In good weather our preference would be for it to be open.”