Ireland boosted by returning stars

Published: Wednesday 11th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Ireland will lay down their “full deck” of fit-again stars for their pivotal RBS 6 Nations encounter with Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, according to Richie Murphy.

Skills coach Murphy backed fit-again playmaker Johnny Sexton to jump straight back to top form after hamstring trouble, with Jamie Heaslip, Jared Payne and Sean O’Brien all inked in to face Wales too.

Heaslip has beaten the cracked vertebrae in his back inflicted by lock Pascal Pape in the 18-11 victory over France on Valentine’s Day.

Racing Metro fly-half Sexton has beaten the hamstring problem that forced him out of the latter stages of the 19-9 victory over England, with Payne and O’Brien over concussion.

“It looks like a full deck to pick from,” said skills coach Murphy, ahead of the potentially tournament-deciding clash at the Millennium Stadium.

“Johnny Sexton took full part in training on Tuesday, he has done all the team stuff and trained well,” said Murphy.

“Everyone else has come through, Jamie trained Monday and Tuesday so he’s fit and healthy and ready to go.

“And the two boys, Jared and Sean O’Brien both passed their return to play protocols.

“They have done contact so as long as there’s no reaction over the next 24 hours they are both fit and ready to go

“Everyone is very upbeat, everyone enjoyed that session this morning, the intensity was right up there.

“Having everyone fit and healthy is a massive thing for the squad because it puts pressure on everyone.

“The environment gets a nice little buzz off that.”

Sexton’s availability could prove crucial as Ireland crank up their bid for a second Grand Slam in six years.

Ian Madigan’s wayward tactical kicking gifted England a late route back into the March 1 Dublin clash after Sexton limped out around the hour-mark.

Leinster inside-back Madigan failed to maintain Sexton’s near-flawless tactical acumen against England – but Murphy has backed the 25-year-old to handle the pressure if called upon from the bench in Cardiff.

Ireland can set a new record of 11 Test victories against Wales this weekend, that would leave just Scotland to beat to secure consecutive titles for the first time since 1949.

Murphy backed Madigan to handle the big-match pressure if called into action off the bench.

“Ian can handle the pressure and cope at this level,” said Murphy of Madigan.

“There were a couple of mistakes, one or two by Ian and one or two by other people as well, against England.

“That allowed them to get a bit of momentum into the game.

“It is what it is: Ian probably would admit it wasn’t his best few minutes on the pitch, but he’s a good guy, he bounces back very, very quickly and he’s very focused on the job in hand for this week.”

Published: Wednesday 11th March 2015 by The News Editor

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