Joe Schmidt allayed concerns over Johnny Sexton’s fitness after the stand-in captain was withdrawn at half-time in Ireland’s 35-0 Rugby World Cup win over Russia.
Sexton returned to lead his country for the first time on Thursday after missing a shock defeat to hosts Japan, having been withdrawn as a precaution in the previous match against Scotland following treatment on his thigh.
The World Rugby Player of the Year was replaced again, though, as Jack Carty, who stepped in against Japan, was introduced at the break in Kobe.
Schmidt revealed Sexton will be fit for Ireland’s final Pool A encounter with Samoa a week on Saturday along with fellow fly-half Joey Carbery, who played no part against Russia due to an ankle problem.
“Johnny’s all good and will be fine for Samoa, and Joey is good,” said the Ireland head coach.
“I think Joey would have been okay to play, but Conor Murray was very keen to play. So Joey is hopefully fine.”
“…we needed the support tonight to take confidence…”@IrishRugby head coach Joe Schmidt praises the Irish fans for giving his players a needed confidence boost as they beat Russia at #RWC2019#IREvRUS pic.twitter.com/sALA2wQSCk
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 3, 2019
Schmidt says Ireland must wait to discover the extent of a rib injury sustained by Jordi Murphy, who was taken off in the first half after being called up to replace Jack Conan this week.
The New Zealander added: “Jordi just got squeezed in the ribs, so he may have popped a rib there. We’re just going to get him checked out. So we’ll see what that comes back like.
“And Rob Kearney, I think he’s okay. Again, we were going to give him 50 or 60, so making the change when we did, he just felt a little bit tight in the groin. We just felt it was about time to take him off anyway.”
Ireland were a long way from their best, making too many handling errors, but Schmidt took the positives after tries from Rob Kearney, Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Andrew Conway and Garry Ringrose put them top of the pool.
“I don’t think we lost our way against Russia – we just didn’t convert some chances,” said Schmidt. “I think there were more things that pleased me than disappointed me definitely. We started well again, with two early tries.
“Then we made a bit of hard work of it. One of the plans we had was to try to get a few scores early if we could. Because the longer the game goes here the more moisture there is on the air, on the ground and on the ball, so we knew it would get more difficult as time went on.
“And that was probably a little bit of consternation in that third quarter. Then [Ireland] probably finish with the best try of the night at the end, just to get that 35-point differential and keep a clean sheet.”
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