Rugby World Cup: Ireland confident Jonathan Sexton will win his fitness race for Argentina quarter-final clash
Ireland are quietly confident that star out-half Jonathan Sexton will be fit to take his place in the No.10 jersey for the World Cup quarter-final with Argentina on Sunday.
Sexton departed the pool win over France at the Millennium Stadium last weekend with a groin injury after just 25 minutes but Ian Madigan performed well in what became a 24-9 win.
Should Sexton be unavailable for selection, the Blackrock product will again be expected to fill in but Ireland's bid for a first ever World Cup semi-final would be considerably boosted by the presence of their key playmaker.
Scrum coach Greg Feek faced the media yesterday and revealed that the St Mary's man had come through an aerobic training session that morning.
"Jonathan did about 3.5km running, that's a positive," he said. "We're quietly confident, we'll see how he goes on Friday."
After losing Jared Payne, Paul O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony to tournament-ending injuries over the past week, Feek confirmed that Sexton and Keith Earls are the only fitness doubts among what is now a 30-man squad ahead of their meeting with the Pumas.
"We're going to see how Keith goes, we're looking after him a bit and it's not too bad, we'll see how he goes on Friday as well," continued Feek. "He's just a bit battered, that's all. It's not too bad. At this stage, you want to do the best to make sure everyone is fit and available."
Ireland will have a down day today before a full training session tomorrow morning.
With the team announcement to follow tomorrow afternoon, Sexton and Earls will be given every chance to prove their fitness despite Joe Schmidt insisting in the past that players must be able to train in the early part of the week.
Feek stated that the rigours of knockout rugby have changed their thinking.
"When you start to accumulate a number of games in a row, in the Six Nations you usually get two then a week off, in November you get three but you can still mix it around," he said.
"It's do or die type stuff so there might be some allowances, especially with our medical staff and our S&C, they've a good feel on things as well.
"This week is a quarter-final and the players themselves want to train this week. It's just making sure we get to that point, that we can do it.
"You want to know what you're doing, that you're organised, that the guys around you have that trust as well."
Feek also hinted that Ireland would not appeal the one-game ban handed to Sean O'Brien for striking Pascal Pape in Sunday's win over France with plenty of back-row options ready to fill the void left by the absences of the Tullow Tank and O'Mahony.
"We'll wait for the written information to come through, we'll analyse that and see whether we'll appeal or not," said Feek.
"We've got guys sitting there raring to go, some guys haven't played much and it's always been our mantra that you'd have heard regularly about the collective.
"That's something this team prides itself on, so we've got to get our head down and get organised for the week."