Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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# johnny on the spot
'We believe he's ready to go': Schmidt confident another day will see Sexton right
The Kiwi also explains why he didn’t want to put the “incredibly strong” Iain Henderson at blindside.

Sean Farrell reports from Cardiff

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt admits the next 40-odd hours before the Rugby World Cup quarter-final kicks off against Argentina are crucial for in bringing his squad to match-ready levels.

Schmidt named his line-up for Sunday 1pm fixture today with three enforced changes from the win over France, a trio of tweaks that did not include a change at number 10 where Jonathan Sexton was a serious doubt after hobbling off in the first half of the Pool D decider.

“We’ve allowed him to build his way back into the week,” Schmidt says of the groin-hampered out-half.

“He had a fairly light start to the week, he trained fully in the Millennium Stadium this morning and we believe that he’s ready to go.”

After he sat out the post-match session on Monday the first positive sign of Sexton’s recovery came on Wednesday when management informed us that the playmaker had run 3.5 kilometres. And while the rest of the team were enjoying a day off from training yesterday, Sexton was swinging into his first opportunity to kick since a soft restart against Les Bleus.

“He hasn’t done as much kicking as he would have, but that wouldn’t be sensible either. We’ve allowed him to build his way in to the week so that by the end of the seven days he can be ready to go.”

Schmidt added: ”If he’s fit, he’s fit. Before we played France in the Six Nations a lot of people asked questions and he was fine.

Jonathan Sexton with Joe Schmidt Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“We don’t tend to take too many risks with players. We have copped a few injuries, but we’ve managed people through the week. We have a fantastic medical crew: a super strength, conditioning and rehabilitation group and Johnny himself is ready to go.”

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As for his other big selection calls today, the Kiwi says Jordi Murphy’s familiarity with running as ‘a six’ in training helped him get the nod on the blindside flank. Besides, the “incredibly strong” Iain Henderson was needed elsewhere.

“Jordi has started Six Nations matches for us,” explains Schmidt, “he’s played six before, he’s played across the back row and we felt he was best positioned having rehearsed running in that position more often than anyone else.

“We did think about putting Iain Henderson in there and putting Donnacha Ryan in, and that may still happen during the game. We just felt Paul (O’Connell) is an unbelievably good scrummager for us. Iain is an incredibly strong young man so we felt that added a bit more ballast to our tight five because our back five (forwards) have lost a lot of experience.”

“There’s a few guys, to be honest, who are carrying bumps and bruises. It’s been a light training week, but we’ve got 48 hours more to freshen and hopefully be ready to go by 1pm Sunday.”

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