RBS 6 Nations: Ireland determined to have Johnny Sexton for glory assault
Ireland and Racing Metro are at loggerheads over the severity of Johnny Sexton's thumb injury, casting the fly-half's RBS 6 Nations campaign into doubt.
Ireland's medical team and Paris club Racing's management hold conflicting opinions on Sexton's chances of a quick return from the thumb ligament damage he suffered in last Saturday's 13-10 defeat to England at Twickenham.
Sexton's French club yesterday ruled the 28-year-old playmaker out of action for between 10 days and six weeks, a timescale that could all but end his Six Nations action.
Ireland bosses later issued a statement rejecting concerns Sexton was already out of contention to face Italy in Dublin tomorrow week.
Racing Metro coach Laurent Labit said through the club's Twitter account: "Johnny Sexton returned from Twickenham with a thumb ligament injury, and will be unavailable between 10 days and six weeks."
The IRFU quickly responded with a statement of their own however, claiming Sexton could yet be fit to face the Azzurri.
"The Ireland medical team have had a consultant hand specialist review Johnny and his scans," read the IRFU statement.
"The ligament damage sustained does not warrant surgery and if Johnny continues his current rate of improvement we would be confident that he will be available for selection against Italy."
Ireland are locked in a four-way fight for the Six Nations title, and losing chief backline architect Sexton would be a major blow.
Head coach Joe Schmidt's men travel to Paris to face France in their final fixture on Saturday, March 15, a week after hosting the Italians.
Ireland, England, Wales and France have all lost one of their three matches in the tournament so far.
Ireland could claim their first title since their 2009 Grand Slam with two more victories.
This latest twist in Sexton's onrunning club-versus-country saga does little to ease the tug-of-war over the former Leinster outside-half that has raged since his move to France last summer.
Ulster's Andrew Trimble suffered a knee injury in yesterday's work-out at Newforge, though the Irish camp are unconcerned about any long term problem.
An IRFU spokesman said: "Andrew took a knock to his knee during the training session in Belfast today and was withdrawn from the session as a precaution. Initial review revealed no immediate concerns and he will be reviewed again tomorrow."