Sexton fit for French clash

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 14:35
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SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has included Jonathan Sexton in his 34-man squad for the upcoming Six Nations clash against France.

Despite the good news for Ireland, head coach Joey Schmidt remains vigilant as he prepares his side for a 'powerful' French challenge at the Aviva Stadium in Six Nations round three next Saturday.

Ireland bounced back from a 27-22 defeat to Scotland at BT Murrayfield with a hugely impressive 63-10 triumph over Italy in round two, moving them second in the Six Nations standings.

Guy Noves' France meanwhile looked impressive despite a 19-16 defeat to defending Grand Slam champions at Twickenham on the opening weekend before outmuscling Scotland in a 22-16 victory at Stade de France next up.

France have just one win in their last five Six Nations fixtures against the Irish, but played out two thrilling draws on successive years in 2012 and 2013.

Both sides will be aware that a victory is paramount to ensure they remain in contention for the Six Nations crown - something that has not escaped Schmidt.

"We have no doubt about what French team will turn up," the 49-year-old explained.

"It will be big and it will be powerful and it will be incredibly motivated because both teams are effectively out of the contest if they lose next Saturday.

"They were super against England and solid against Scotland when they did enough to win,"

Ireland welcome back flyhalf Sexton, as well as wing Andrew Trimble, flank Peter O'Mahony and captain Rory Best is back in full training after missing the Italy win through illness.

And despite the pressure to deliver when France arrive at the Aviva, Schmidt says his players will relish the challenge.

"We know we are under the hammer. How the players respond when they are under the hammer, we will find out a little bit I guess. We're not happy to be where we are but we're excited about the challenge we face," Schmidt said.

"The more experiences you get in that domain the greater your ability to cope in those situations,"

Ireland squad:

Forwards: Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Iain Henderson, Dan Leavy, Jack McGrath, Sean O'Brien, Tommy O'Donnell, Peter O'Mahony, Quinn Roux, Donnacha Ryan, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, James Tracy

Backs: Tommy Bowe, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Craig Gilroy, Robbie Henshaw, Paddy Jackson, Rob Kearney, Ian Keatley, Kieran Marmion, Luke Marshall, Luke McGrath, Conor Murray, Tiernan O'Halloran, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble, Simon Zebo

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