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Murphy: We’ve A Full Deck And Everyone Is Very Upbeat

Murphy: We’ve A Full Deck And Everyone Is Very Upbeat

Kicking coach Richie Murphy reckons Ireland will have a full deck to choose from when the coaches pick the team to face Wales. Jonathan Sexton (hamstring), Jared Payne, Sean O’Brien (both concussion) and Jamie Heaslip (back) have all returned to training and look set to start in Cardiff on Saturday.

Having come in on Sunday for some kicking, Jonathan Sexton trained fully today and continues his rehab back to full fitness. Jamie Heaslip returned to full training on Monday having been involved in parts of training last week.

Meanwhile, Sean O’Brien and Jared Payne have passed their return-to-play protocols. The pair returned to full contact training today and barring any reaction over the next 24 hours, they should be ‘raring to go’.

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Ireland kicking coach Richie Murphy explained: “It looks like a full deck to pick from and everyone is very upbeat. Having everyone fit and healthy is a massive thing for the squad. It obviously puts pressure on everybody else. The intensity in the training session will go up. Everyone is competing for a place, so the environment gets a nice little buzz off that.

“In that way, it’s massive but one thing we have is that we have is we are very lucky to have a very good squad of players from 1 to 37. Within that group we feel very confident with whichever of those guys is on the pitch.”

Commenting on Sexton’s progress, he said: “Johnny’s dealing with the rehab guys really, so they have him on a programme bringing him through that. He kicked a couple of balls on Sunday, did a little bit more yesterday and more again today.

“So he’s in a good place, he trained fully and was running at 100% today. He will be ready for the weekend. His kicking drills, he’s probably not hitting them 100% yet, but today’s Tuesday, Saturday is a long way away. And he’ll be ready to go.”

Ian Madigan was a 55th minute replacement for hamstring injury victim Sexton against England and should the need arise for him to be introduced against Wales, Murphy is confident he has what it takes to see out Saturday’s crunch clash at out-half.

“Ian did finish a game there (in Cardiff) before, a very different situation in the (2011) Heineken Cup final, but he’s got a good attitude. He is well able to deal with the knocks and the highs and the lows of the thing. If it was Ian Madigan or (Ian) Keatley, both those guys have shown they can play with that (pressure) at this level.

“Any of our kickers would be able for it (to land a match-winning drop goal like Ronan O’Gara in 2009). They have prepared for those situations. It’s very difficult to take the emotion or the pressure out, but we train in that way all the time.

“The kick that’s in front of them is the same one they’ve hit in training a hundred times or more. It’s about focusing in on the process and if they deal with that, stick to that then they’ll be okay on the day.”

Madigan was not released back to Leinster for their GUINNESS PRO12 match away to the Scarlets last weekend. With Sexton nursing his injury, Murphy said it was a chance for Madigan to get some work done at the Irish camp in Belfast last week.

“Ian hasn’t played a massive amount at 10 (this season) but it was felt it was best to keep him in camp and keep him up to speed on what was going on here. Johnny wasn’t training so Ian stepped in and took that workload.

“Ian would probably admit it was not his best few minutes on the pitch (against England) but he’s a good guy, he bounces back quickly. He is very focused on the job in hand for this week.”