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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
©INPHO/Billy Stickland Watching brief: Jonathan Sexton at training today.
# 6 Nations
Not running near full pace and no kicking in 4 weeks, Sexton somehow rated '50/50'
Assistant coach Les Kiss, meanwhile, says Paddy Jackson will definitely kick for Ireland ‘if selected’.

THERE IS NOTHING like a bit of optimism to get an international rugby week started.

Ireland team manager Mick Kearney has often taken up five minutes of his press briefings by listing out half the squad and their current ailments.

His injury updates this afternoon spanned less than two minutes before he fielded questions on Ronan O’Gara’s Test match future.

Modified training for Donnacha Ryan and his smarting shoulder, two full training sessions for Mike McCarthy and light workouts for Craig Gilroy – as close to a fully fit squad as Ireland dare hope.

Gilroy’s update came only after a prompting so he should be fine to take his place on the wing against France. The news on Sexton was not so positive. Kearney told TheScore.ie:

Jonathan made good progress last week and over the weekend. As of now he has not been ruled out. We are happy with how he has gone but, at best, it is still a 50/50 call.”

Deeper probing on the extent of Sexton hitting comeback targets gave an altogether clearer, and less rosy, picture.

“He has only done running in close lines,” said Kearney. “The plan for tomorrow [before the starting XV is named] is that they will run him as close to full speed as possible and then take it on from there.”

“He hasn’t done any kicking and he hasn’t run anywhere near full-out,” he added.

Likely lads

The Irish team to play France will be named, for an unfathomable reason, just after lunchtime tomorrow so Ryan and Sexton will be hoping for bodily miracles to manifest themselves whilst they slumber.

Ryan is likely to be given the benefit of the doubt but risking Sexton in a game that will not effect the outcome of the Six Nations would not be wise.

Paddy Jackson’s seven from nine place-kicking performance against Treviso earned him a man-of-the-match accolade and should ensure that he starts on Saturday.

Paddy Jackson absorbs some Kidney knowledge. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Ireland backs coach Les Kiss was impressed with Jackson’s willingness to offer himself up for kicks at the posts in Ulster’s draw with the Italians.

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He told TheScore.ie, “You take your hat off to the young lad for going up there and [taking the kicks].”

Kiss added, “He had two compartments to deal with [against Scotland]. He was really happy with how he managed the game and the players gave him good feedback. Obviously very disappointed with the other side [the kicking].

“To go to Ravenhill and put the ball on the tee… he had a fairly difficult one with his first kick and didn’t quite nail it.

From there on he kept stepping up, confidently, to the tee and took charge of it. His kicking out of hand, on the night, was superb.”

Ian Madigan was another outhalf that kicked impressively, against Newport Gwent Dragons, at the weekend.

Kiss noted that Madigan ‘hasn’t been challenged at the top level’ or started a Heineken Cup match for Leinster in the 10 jersey but deserves the opportunity to come in, train and ‘put himself in the shop window’ for selection.

‘It wasn’t Declan’s intention that he was writing off Ronan’s international career’