Sexton doubt for France

Ireland fly-half Jonny Sexton will face a fitness battle to be ready to face France in the RBS 6 Nations on March 9 after he was confirmed as having suffered a grade two tear to his right hamstring.

Sexton pulled up clutching the back of his thigh after 30 minutes of last Sunday’s clash with England at the Aviva Stadium in a game that left the Ireland dressing room looking like a casualty ward.

Team manager Mick Kearney last night confirmed that Top 14-bound Sexton was definitely out of Ireland’s next Six Nations match, against Scotland in Edinburgh on February 24, and said the usual recovery period for a grade two tear was four to six weeks, the lower limit of which would fall on the weekend of the France match. With Ireland concluding their campaign on March 16 in Italy, a worst-case scenario would have Sexton missing the rest of the championship.

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“He’s definitely ruled out of Scotland and though progress has been good so far it’s definitely too early to say when he will return to play,” Kearney said. “But France, if you take four to six weeks, that’s on the borderline.”

Wing Simon Zebo broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot after less than 10 minutes of the 12-6 defeat to England and Kearney confirmed the Munster star had come successfully through surgery but would face 10 weeks on the sidelines but also ruled out lock Mike McCarthy from facing the Scots in Murrayfield due to a medial ligament problem in his right knee, which will be subject to further review in a fortnight.

There was better news regarding McCarthy’s second-row partner Donnacha Ryan, who suffered a lower back muscle strain, back row Sean O’Brien (stiff neck, tight hamstring) and centre Brian O’Driscoll, who incurred soft tissue damage to his right ankle but suffered no structural damage. All three should be fit to face Scotland, Kearney reported.

Sexton’s replacement looks set to be Ronan O’Gara, who has been released back to Munster this weekend to face Scarlets in order to get more game time, with Ulster’s Paddy Jackson lined up to provide back-up.

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