Jonathan Sexton to Make Injury Return Against France

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Jonathan Sexton has been named in Ireland's starting XV for the Six Nations clash with France in Dublin on Saturday, marking his much-anticipated return from a calf injury.

Sexton has been out of action since picking up the issue during Leinster's Champions Cup draw with Castres last month, but will start this weekend at the expense of Paddy Jackson, who has impressed in the Leinster fly-half's absence.

Discussing his decision to immediately reinstate Sexton to the team, Schmidt said: "It was a call like any other. We debated it and we do believe that we get a good balance with having both players available.

"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.

"So 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 positions at some stage of the game.

"[Johnny] trained well today, trained well on Tuesday, and as was expected he's highly motivated to get into the game on Saturday.

"[Paddy] took it with a smile and said 'I'll be ready when you need me from the bench'."

Full-back Rob Kearney has also been passed fit to start after being withdrawn late in Ireland's record 63-10 rout of Italy, with initial reports suggesting the bicep injury he sustained in Rome could keep him out of the rest of the tournament.

Captain Rory Best is back at hooker after seeing his run of 51 consecutive appearances ended by illness a fortnight ago, and Jack McGrath will join him in the front row as he comes in for Cian Healy.

Craig Gilroy, who scored a hat-trick in the demolition of Italy, is not included in the 23, with Ulster colleague Andrew Trimble taking his place on the bench.


Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Peter O'Mahony, Kieran Marmion, Paddy Jackson, Andrew Trimble.