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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

Injuries not concerning for Schmidt, who backs Sexton call to 'seize the moment'

Keith Earls suffered cramp, while Ireland’s halfbacks also picked up knocks against Wales.

JOE SCHMIDT SAYS Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray are likely to miss Ireland’s open training session at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday but he is not concerned that injuries sustained by his halfback pair against Wales will keep them sidelined beyond that.

Sexton suffered a knock to the glute late in Ireland’s 37-27 victory over the Welsh in Dublin, while Murray had his knee strapped after trapping his foot in contact during the second half of the victory against Warren Gatland’s side.

Jonathan Sexton and Steff Evans Schmidt says Sexton could have played on. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

There had been concerns over Sexton taking part at all today after he had a back issue treated during Ireland’s captain’s run yesterday but while he did uncharacteristically miss several kicks from the tee, he was vital for Schmidt’s side.

Murray was required to step up and slot a 76th-minute penalty as Sexton was treated, and although Schmidt says the out-half could have played on, Ireland wanted to back Joey Carbery.

“Johnny just got a dead glute,” said Schmidt. “He copped a knee in the backside really. He could have stayed on and played on but we’ve got a lot of confidence in Joey Carbery and we just felt that we want to keep growing the group and it was a good opportunity for Joey.

“In his Test debut, he came on with 20 to go against the All Blacks and guided us home, so we felt that he was well enough placed to go and control that last five minutes.”

Regarding Murray, Schmidt said that the scrum-half “got his foot trapped, you would have seen it, and twisted awkwardly. He’s walking without any problem at all, he finished the game, he ran fully, changed angles fully.

Conor Murray receives treatment Murray was treated on the pitch but played on. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I can imagine it will be a little bit sore and it’s incredible what these guys will do to get out of training on Tuesday! He and Johnny might get Tuesday off but on the other hand, they have well and truly earned it.”

Keith Earls was replaced in the second half due to cramp in his calves, Schmidt and his coaching staff erring on the side of caution with the Munster flyer.

“He is fine, there was no event, but in the context of keeping him fully fit we decided we would take him off.”

While Peter O’Mahony was treated by Ireland’s medical staff at least once before his second-half replacement, Schmidt stated that his players have come through another absorbing clash with the Welsh relatively unscathed.

“I don’t think there’s anything too concerning, even Conor was good. I think we’ve come out of such a high ball-in-play game and with so much play in it, we’ve come out reasonably well.”

Before Sexton’s departure, he was largely impactful – with Schmidt praising the out-half’s ability to bring others into the game with his passing skills, picking out the assist for Jacob Stockdale’s opening try for particular praise.

“Unfortunately, his goal-kicking wasn’t what it normally is but to coin a golf analogy – you can be super off the tee and your short irons can be great but he didn’t quite have the putting game that he normally does,” added Schmidt.


Sexton raised several eyebrows with his decision to tap and run a very kickable penalty in the 68th minute, when a shot at goal could have allowed Ireland some breathing room on the scoreboard with a 10-point lead.

But Schmidt says he trusts his players to make those decisions on the pitch.

“I back him 100%,” said Schmidt. “He felt that they could score and we can’t get too much closer than what we did without scoring. At the time or in retrospect, he might look to kick that goal as Conor did toward the end to give that 10-point margin and take a bit of pressure off.

“But it was something he had said at half-time, he said that when we were getting penalties, they were turning their back, so let’s all be ready. To be honest, I love that about Johnny. He’s always looking for opportunity and I’m pretty sure the crowd enjoyed it because I heard a hell of a yell when he tapped it.

“Not sure I was yelling with the crowd, but it’s great that he seizes the moment that he does.”

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Murray Kinsella

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