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Six Nations
Sexton fit to face Italy
ESPNscrum Staff
February 21, 2012
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton eyes up the posts, Rugby World Cup, New Plymouth, New Zealand, September 11, 2011
Jonathan Sexton hopes to get the nod at fly-half for the match with Italy © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Johnny Sexton
Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: Ireland | Italy

Ireland's half-back Jonathan Sexton insists he is fully fit ahead of their clash with Italy on Saturday.

The Leinster favourite tweaked a thigh muscle in kicking practice during the build-up to the postponed France game in Paris and sat out training a couple of days later. Fly-half rival Ronan O'Gara was put on standby to start, with Paddy Wallace called into the squad as cover, but Sexton insists he would have played against the French had the match not fallen victim to a frozen pitch and is raring to go on Saturday.

"I was fit to play over in Paris," he said. "I just had a slight niggle a couple of days beforehand but it was fine. I've recovered enough. I had weights this morning, but I'll be training this afternoon."

Sexton says the postponement of their second match frustrated the Irish players in their attempt to bounce back from the disappointment of their last-gasp 23-21 defeat by Wales, but believes the extra lay-off may pay dividends in the long run.

"It was a weird week," he said. "We came in for a one-day camp last week and the lads are excited about getting back playing now. We've had a bit of a break since the Wales game and to have that hanging over you for an extra week is not the nicest feeling.

"We worked hard in training and tried to simulate a game as much as we could last week. The more you play, the better you play but at the same time being fresh is key as well. I think you can take the positives out of both."

Sexton is expecting to come up against Treviso half-back Kris Burton for the second week and says the Australia-born player will be a major threat after causing England problems in Rome.

"I thought he was going okay," he said. "They obviously took him off against England it probably cost them. "We played against him (for Leinster) in Treviso and he's a good player and a threat. We'll have to keep our discipline, keep him out of drop-goal range and put a lot of pressure on him when he does go for those drop goals."

The Italians will be without experienced prop Martin Castrogiovanni after he broke a rib in his side's 19-15 loss to England, but Sexton insists the visitors will be no pushovers.

"Their strength is up front," he added. "They might be missing Castrogiovanni, which is a big loss for any side, but they've got strength in depth in that area, and they've got some backs playing in the Top 14."

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