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Sexton 'fit and fresh' to face France after 3 months out, Murray still awaiting neck scan

The Racing Metro out-half is still over a week away from resuming contact training.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND SKILLS AND kicking coach Richie Murphy is confident that Jonathan Sexton will be fit and ready to start once his enforced three-month layoff with concussion has passed.

The Racing Metro number 10 suffered his fourth concussion in the space of a year during the second half of Ireland’s November Test victory over Australia and club doctors imposed a 12-week ban from playing and contact training on the Dubliner.

That time-frame rules Sexton out of Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Italy on February 7, but should he satisfy his neurologist’s return-to-play requirements then he will be free to resume contact training after that.

Until that time, Sexton is free to take part in non-contact training and Murphy says it would not be a gamble to start the Lions out-half at home to France after a week of full training sessions.

He’s trained today, done all the handling stuff, all the non-contact training and then a lot of fitness work as well. So he’s looking very fit and very fresh.

Murphy added: “He’s been training hard for the last couple of months. It’s not like a player coming back from an injury where he hasn’t been able do anything because he’s been thrown in that week.

“You’d fancy that – because he’s been doing all the handling, all the kicking and that sort of stuff – the contact stuff will fall into place that week.”

While the prognosis for Sexton is positive, there is still no further update on the condition of his primary half-back partner, Conor Murray. The Munster number nine has been out of action since suffering a neck injury while scoring a try away to Zebre early this month and though Murphy is hopeful he can be cleared to face Italy, he is not prepared to make any predictions.

“He’s obviously been struggling with it for a while. He’ll go to see someone during the week. He trained today, done a lot of fitness work and we’re hoping he will be fit for next week, but at this stage we’ve no further update on that.”

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