What to expect from Joe Schmidt's Ireland team announcement

Doyle BarkerФев 24, 2017

Sexton, such a key man for both his country and province, has recovered from the calf strain which saw him miss the games with Scotland and Italy.

Sexton replaces Paddy Jackson in the starting line-up to play France on Saturday evening.

"It's really hard to come into a side and come off the bench when you haven't played and I think it allows Johnny a little bit more training time with the team this week, as opposed to Paddy, who is already reasonably comfortable".

"I think they (France) are really unsafe".

"It's a balance. I think on Saturday based on how things have gone in the past we'll probably see both players in some stage of the game".

He hasn't played since he went off injured after 21 minutes of Leinster's Champions Cup tie in Castres on January 20.

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Captain Rory Best also returns to the starting line up and he joins Tadhg Furlong and McGrath in the front row, with Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner starting in the second row.

Sexton can expect just the latest in a string of physical onslaughts from the French, who love nothing more than targeting Ireland's linchpin playmaker.

The Leinster fly-half then suffered a nasty black eye amid a host of clashes with bullocking centre Mathieu Bastareaud when Ireland saw off France 18-11 in Dublin in the 2015 Six Nations. Fitness is never really an issue for Johnny.

"Johnny trained well today and fully on Tuesday", said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt today.

Ireland are as close to full-strength as they are ever going to get for this Saturday's visit of France. Sexton's return to the starting XV is one of three changes to the side that thrashed Italy 63-10 a fortnight ago.

Sexton is partnered by scrum-half Conor Murray and the Irish midfield - Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose - and back three - Simon Zebo, Keith Earls and Kearney all get another game to solidify their combinations.

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