Sexton back in the Ireland mix
March 11, 2013
Jonathan Sexton looks set to return for Ireland on Saturday © PA Photos
Sexton was injured during Ireland's second round loss to England and was forced to sit out their defeat to Scotland and their draw with France. In his place Paddy Jackson has held the fly-half reins but Sexton is likely to come back into the side for Saturday's match in Rome.
Gilroy injured his groin during their loss to Scotland and Fergus McFadden took his place in the side for Saturday's draw against Les Bleus. McFadden will miss the showdown with Italy due to a broken rib so the Ulster flyer will probably come straight back into the team.
And Gilroy's Ulster team-mate Paul Marshall has received a call up to the national side and he replaces Eoin Reddan. The Leinster-man broke his leg against France and faces 12 to 16 weeks out.
Ireland are also sweating on the fitness of centre duo Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Marshall. O'Driscoll picked up an ear injury against France and also suffered a dead leg while both centres sustained concussion in the closing stages of the match. Ireland will also monitor Donnacha Ryan's fitness as he received a blow to the shoulder on Saturday.
"I asked Brian why he wanted to tackle Vincent Debaty twice - I thought he had more smarts than that," assistant coach Les Kiss said. "He's a warrior who puts his body on the line week in, week out. We know that. It's amazing what he pulls from his reserves. I imagine he'll do everything to be available for Italy. He's talking as though he'll be there"
But in better news for Ireland, talismanic second-row Paul O'Connell will play for Munster 'A' on Tuesday. The lock underwent surgery to rectify a bulging disc in his back on New Year's Eve and if he comes through the match against Leinster then he could feature for Munster in their Heineken Cup clash with Harlequins on April 7.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin
After Brian O'Driscoll's emotional final Ireland appearance on home soil, and seeing the Six Nations boil down to a three-horse race, we bring you the Weekend in PIctures
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year