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Dublin: 5°C Sunday 28 February 2021

Healy 'bullish' about injury comeback as Ireland carefully manage Sexton and Earls

Joe Schmidt provided an injury update at the team’s Carton House base this afternoon.

Healy was forced off during the first half at Twickenham.
Healy was forced off during the first half at Twickenham.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

CONCERNS OVER CIAN Healy’s fitness heading into the World Cup have been alleviated with the news that the Ireland prop will be fit to feature in the final warm-up game against Wales.

Healy was forced off during the first half of Ireland’s record defeat by England with an ankle injury, but the damage is not as bad as first feared and the Leinster loosehead could return as early as next weekend.

Speaking to the media at Carton House this afternoon, Joe Schmidt said Healy was ‘bullish’ about his injury comeback and although he is unlikely to be involved against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday [2.30pm, Channel 4], the 31-year-old is in line to feature at the Aviva Stadium on 7 September.

Schmidt also provided a positive update on Conor Murray, who was withdrawn at half-time at Twickenham having suffered a heavy knock to the head.

The Munster scrum-half did, however, train fully with the team at their Maynooth base this morning and Schmidt reported that Murray passed all of the Head Injury Assessment protocols, meaning there was no concussion.

As was planned, Murray is not set to feature at the Millenium Stadium this weekend but is due to get further game-time when Warren Gatland’s side visit Dublin for the final hit-out before Japan.

“Conor trained fully this morning and did all that was required of him,” Schmidt said.

“Our initial plan for Conor was probably only to play two games before we go. Last weekend and potentially the final game of the lead-in. We’ll make a decision on that.”

On the fitness of Johnny Sexton, Schmidt explained that the Ireland out-half had been ‘put back a bit’ following the thumb injury he sustained at the start of pre-season, while he also reported ‘a bit of stiffness and soreness’ last week.

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jonathan-sexton Sexton during Tuesday's team session. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Sexton, who has yet to feature for Ireland in pre-season, is keen to be involved this weekend but Schmidt said the Ireland management would not ‘be silly about that’ and play the Leinster captain if he’s not 100% fit and ready.

“He’s got a bit of stiffness and soreness,” the head coach explained, when asked specifically if Sexton had a leg injury.

If we wanted to pick him this weekend, we could pick him. It’s a progression for him and I think when people don’t have full medical information and report things, there’s always a risk.

Whether Sexton is deemed fit enough for his first run-out in Cardiff on Saturday remains to be seen, but his absence, and the continued unavailability of Joey Carbery, may present Connacht’s Jack Carty with a first Test start and a chance to stake his claim.

Keith Earls, meanwhile, is unlikely to be in contention for selection this week as the Munster winger continues to suffer from a knee problem. Schmidt said Ireland are prepared to ‘play the long game with Keith.’

The Kiwi added: “He got a little bit, I suppose you’d call it tendonitis in the knee, just above it. It’s just niggling away more than anything else. We have tried to get any inflammation out of that by not pushing him.

“He’s a player who we know plays really well fresh. It is about playing the long game with Keith and making sure that he is 100% ready to go. I know that he will be ready for the weekend after this one. I doubt he will be involved this weekend.”

Schmidt will name his team for Wales on Thursday lunchtime. 

Originally published at 14.51

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Ryan Bailey

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