Six Nations 2014: Jonny Sexton could face Italy, insist Ireland

Six Nations 2014: Ireland fly-half Jonny Sexton could still face Italy, according to the IRFU

Johnny Sexton could yet play for Ireland against Italy next week after the Irish Rugby Football Union refuted the medical assessment of his club.

Racing Metro coach Laurent Labit said on Thursday afternoon that the outside-half could be out for between 10 days and six weeks with thumb ligament damage sustained during Ireland’s 13-10 Six Nations defeat by England on Saturday.

But despite the 28-year-old heading back to Paris with his hand in a splint ahead of Racing’s Top14 clash with Castres at Colombes on Saturday and the subsequent fears he could miss the rest of the Six Nations, the IRFU maintain that he could face Italy in Dublin next week.

“The Ireland medical team have had a consultant hand specialist review Johnny and his scans,” read the IRFU statement on Thursday evening.

“The ligament damage sustained does not warrant surgery and if Johnny continues his current rate of improvement we would be confident that he will be available for selection against Italy.”

Schmidt had earlier conceded that he may look at resting Sexton for Italy’s visit to the Aviva Stadium with Paddy Jackson waiting in the wings to deputise and the Ulster outside-half will have a chance to impress the Kiwi when he lines up against Newport Gwent Dragons at Ravenhill on Friday night.

There was mixed news for the Ireland coach as the core squad continued to prepare in Belfast for Italy as talisman Brian O’Driscoll took part in conditioning training off his feet as he bids to make his final appearance in Dublin for Ireland ahead of his summer retirement.

Flanker Peter O’Mahony, currently struggling with a hamstring injury, is said to be improving and expected to start running at the weekend, while Ulster wing Andrew Trimble will be assessed again on Friday after taking a knock to the knee and withdrawn from the session, although there is no immediate concern from the initial assessment.

Despite the defeat at Twickenham, Ireland remain in the hunt for the championship with four points from their opening three matches with their campaign ending against France in Paris on 15 March.

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