Johnny Sexton expected to get thumbs up for Italy game despite injury

Johnny Sexton expected to get thumbs up for Italy game despite injury
Johnny Sexton at the Ireland rugby squad open training session today at The Sportsgrounds, Galway. Photo: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Johnny Sexton’s thumb sprain is not expected to stop the Ireland star facing Italy in Ireland’s opening World Cup warm-up game next month.

The World Rugby Player of the Year was injured during pre-season training last week and did not participate this week when Ireland’s extended squad decamped to Galway.

The good news for head coach Joe Schmidt is that will see his vice-captain and first-choice fly-half begin passing the ball during next week’s camp in Limerick before returning to full training the following week, an Ireland team spokesman said today.

That will give Sexton, who turned 34 on Thursday, plenty of time to make himself available for selection for Ireland’s Guinness Series opener in Dublin against the Italians on August 10.

Schmidt has added Ulster utility back Will Addison to his squad, bringing the total number of players to 45. The former Sale Shark underwent back surgery in April having been injured in his province’s final Champions Cup games against Leicester Tigers in January.

Addison, 26, won the first of his three Test caps to date off the bench against Italy in Chicago last November and then showed his versatility with starts against Argentina at outside centre and the United States a week later at full-back.

Given his injury the Irish strength and conditioning staff has held him back from contact but Addison has been given a heavy fitness workload and is expected to start training fully in the next two weeks.

With World Cup rules restricting squad numbers to 31 players, Schmidt is expected to start trimming his playing group in the week before Ireland face Italy and again following that game, retaining around 35 for the remaining three warm-up matches until the squad departs for Japan ahead of their Pool opener with Scotland in Yokohama on September 22.

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