Sexton expects to face Scotland as Ireland pass hooker Kelleher fit too

Jordan Larmour is, however, a doubt for the Six Nations opener.

JOHNNY SEXTON EXPECTS to be fit to lead Ireland out for their Six Nations opener against Scotland in Dublin in 10 days’ time.

The new Ireland captain has been sidelined since December with a knee injury but he is set to return to full training tomorrow, leaving him in line to start in the number 10 shirt as the Andy Farrell era gets underway at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 1 February.

Uncapped hooker Rónan Kelleher is also set to be available for the Scotland clash after making a return to full fitness following a hand injury, but fullback Jordan Larmour is a doubt due to a foot issue.

jonathan-sexton-celebrates-winning Sexton expects to be fit to face Scotland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Speaking at the Six Nations launch in London today, Sexton said he will feature bar any late setbacks. The 34-year-old suffered a knee injury in Leinster’s win over Northampton on 7 December but is ahead of schedule with his recovery.

“Everything’s been going to plan so hopefully I’ll take a full part in training tomorrow,” said Sexton, who will join the rest of the squad in Portugal this evening for a week-long camp.

“Once I don’t have any setbacks, everything’s gone really well so far, everything’s gone to plan and, if anything, I’m a little bit ahead of schedule. Once everything goes smoothly over the next few days, I should be fine and available for selection.”

Sexton is excited about his new role as Ireland captain and hopes to help his team start with a bang against the Scots. The out-half confirmed that his captaincy is initially just for this year’s Six Nations.

“I think everyone would want to be captain but it’s about someone wanting you to do it and that’s the biggest honour you can be asked to do,” said Sexton. “It meant a lot that Andy asked me to do it, that he thought that I was the one to lead us forward into this campaign.

“It’s obviously a campaign-by-campaign thing at the moment and we’ll see how we go and see how everything goes over the next eight weeks.”

Meanwhile, Ireland boss Andy Farrell confirmed that Leinster hooker Kelleher is also fully fit again, having also been out of action since suffering a hand injury playing for his province in December.

leinsters-ronan-kelleher Leinster hooker Rónan Kelleher is fit again. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

The 21-year-old is thought to be strongly in contention for involvement against Scotland in two weekends’ time.

“He’s fully fit, he’s through all his protocols now,” said Farrell. “We’re training in Portugal tomorrow and he’s full steam ahead.

“Rónan has been injured for a few weeks but he’s been in good form and Johnny, before he got injured, was on fire.”

Larmour is an injury concern, however, after sustaining a foot issue in Leinster’s win away to Benetton last weekend in the Heineken Champions Cup.

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Farrell admitted there was no certainty that Larmour will be fit in time to face the Scots.

“He’s still nursing an injury,” said Farrell of the Leinster fullback. “We’ve had a few days off, so nothing too taxing. We met up yesterday and had a bit of a walkthrough, so he was able to partake in that but we will have to take it day-by-day.

“I don’t think it’s anything too serious but how that plays out in the next few days, we’ll see.”

Munster’s Chris Farrell and Keith Earls missed their province’s win over the Ospreys last weekend with knee injuries but Ireland expect both players to be fit and in contention for selection against Scotland. 

jordan-larmour Larmour is nursing a foot injury. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey, initially left out of Ireland’s squad, has joined Farrell’s group in travelling to Portugal and the new head coach is excited about getting to work with the 36 players.

“There are some new guys in there who are going to freshen the squad up,” said Farrell. “They’re in because they deserve to be in there, it’s not just a matter of freshening things up, it’s a matter of picking people that’s in good form.

“So we feel we’ve got a 36-man squad that are really in a good place, really playing well, competition for places is at a premium for us, which is the way we want it.”

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Murray Kinsella

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