Best moves to dampen fears over Sexton fitness

Ireland's Johnny Sexton takes a penalty kick during the Autumn International match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: backpagepix

DUBLIN, Ireland - Fears over the fitness of Ireland's star fly-half Johnny Sexton ahead of Saturday's Six Nations clash with Wales have been allayed by Irish skipper Rory Best.

The 32-year-old playmaker had been having treatment on his lower back and belatedly joined their final training session on Friday.

However, he showed little sign of injury in kicking at goal in the session at Lansdowne Road.

Sexton has been in sublime form in the Six Nations, his drop goal in added time in Paris sealing a thrilling victory in their opening match and he orchestrated a whopping 56-19 win over Italy last time out.

"He (Sexton) was grand, it's just that he's just getting a bit older, so he needed a bit longer to warm up," Best said at his eve of match press conference.

"But he came into the tail-end of the session.

"He let the subs run at the start and then the starters finished off. No concerns."

The Irish can ill afford to lose a player of Sexton's quality having already been shorn of three other British and Irish Lions in centre Robbie Henshaw, prop Tadgh Furlong and lock Iain Henderson.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones said his side will not be lulled into a false sense of security by Ireland's raft of absentees.

"There are obviously a few forced changes, but they are at home so it's going to be a tough test whatever Irish side we face," Jones said.

"They are quality players with British and Irish Lions experience, and players of that experience are a loss.

"Whoever fills the void has a point to prove after missing out initially, and they will want to take their opportunity. I said before the Scotland game that we can't focus on the people who aren't there, we need to focus on the ones who are."

Having thrashed Scotland but then lost to England, Wales need a victory to stay in the Six Nations race, but Jones said his team were ready for the challenge.

"You know pre-game if guys go into town today they are going to know where they are and what they are here to face," Jones said.

"They always arrive for the occasion, whether it's the team or supporters, so it's a great occasion and it's up to us to make sure we arrive for it as well."


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