Sexton an ‘outside chance’ for Italian trip

Joe Schmidt has labelled Jonathan Sexton an “outside chance” for Ireland’s second RBS Six Nations tie, against Italy in Rome next Saturday week, though Munster captain Peter O’Mahony is highly unlikely to feature at the Stadio Olimpico, writes Brendan O’Brien.

Sexton sits out Saturday’s tournament opener against Scotland with a calf injury while O’Mahony’s hamstring has done for his chances of featuring in Murrayfield, at the very least.

“Realistically, Johnny is an outside chance for Italy,” said Schmidt after announcing his squad for the Scotland engagement at team HQ. “Pete O’Mahony is an highly unlikely for Italy. Pete is probably bordering on grade one, grade two with his hamstring.

“It’s a strain, it’s not bad but we don’t want to to risk further damage by bringing him back too soon. We will probably progress him a little slower so Italy would be tight.”

Andrew Trimble is another to miss this first championship fixture, in his case due to a minor groin strain, but the expectation there is that the Ulster wing will be putting his hand up for the trip to the Italian capital.

Donnacha Ryan has also missed out on Murrayfield this weekend, however. The Munster lock’s preparation was undone by a medial ligament injury which prevented him from training last week. It was Tuesday of this week before he made a session.

“He has been super for us in recent times but it is a very tight turnaround and Donnacha, we just had uncertainty around him,” said the Ireland coach. “He came through training really well on Tuesday but we wanted a bit more uncertainty than that.”

Ulster’s Iain Henderson steps in alongside Devin Toner in the second row in Ryan’s absence with Connacht’s Ultan Dillane providing cover from the bench. The rest of the matchday 23, named Thursday lunchtime, followed the expected lines.

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