DCSIMG

Paddy Jackson in line for Ireland start against Italians

Paddy Jackson during Ireland kicking practice

Paddy Jackson during Ireland kicking practice

  • by Richard Mulligan
 

Paddy Jackson could be in line for a first Ireland start of this season’s Six Nations Championship against Italy in Dublin on March 8.

The Ulster outhalf has come off the bench in the wins over Scotland and Wales and got a token one minute against England in the 13-10 defeat on February 22.

First choice fly-half Johnny Sexton is battling with a thumb injury.

Yesterday Irish coach, Joe Schmidt, revealed Sexton had his hand in a splint but could still turn out for his French club Racing Metro against Castres this weekend in the Top 14.

If he does play for his club side, Schmidt may yet choose to rest Sexton against Italy, but the head coach is not overly concerned for his fitness.

Schmidt said of the injury: “It wasn’t bad, he’s fully functioning and can still pass and do everything.

“But we’re going to get some more feedback over the next few days. Hopefully, he’ll be fine.

“He’s gone back to Paris and we’ve got some scans to be read as well and we’ll get some feedback on that by Thursday when we’re next out.

“I predict that he should still be available for the final two games.”

Head coach Schmidt hopes flanker Peter O’Mahony will recover from the hamstring strain suffered in Sunday’s 13-10 England defeat in time to feature against Italy in Ireland’s penultimate Six Nations clash of the season on March 8.

Schmidt admitted however that he may take the chance to rest both men and hand starting chances to in-form squad stars.

Jackson and loose-forwards Jordi Murphy and Tommy O’Donnell could now come into contention to start against the Azzurri.

Schmidt also expects Brian O’Driscoll to overcome his calf trouble to turn out against Italy.

“Peter O’Mahony has no respect for his body,” said Schmidt. “He’s had a fantastic series so far.

“There is a little bit of blood [on the hamstring scan], but no tear so those things normally clear up quickly.

“It’s a case of managing Pete this week so that he can train next week.

“Brian O’Driscoll was cramp, he was walking fine after the game, he trained individually on Monday and he should train Wednesday and Thursday this week.

“He actually hasn’t had that much game time this year in total, so he’s pretty fresh.”

Schmidt said Ireland will work to have both Sexton and Munster captain O’Mahony fit for Ireland’s clash with Italy.

But the former Leinster coach also conceded their knocks, coupled with unbroken rugby throughout the tournament, could lead him to rest the duo in favour of keeping as many players fresh and in form as possible.

Ireland head to France for what could well become the Six Nations title decider on Saturday, March 15.

 
 
 

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