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Ireland v France Six Nations: Paddy Jackson can keep Sexton out, says Denis McBride

By Jonathan Bradley

Former Ulster and Ireland stalwart Denis McBride believes there is no reason why Paddy Jackson should surrender his international place to Johnny Sexton for this weekend's clash with France (4.50pm kick-off).

Jackson has started the opening two games of the Six Nations Championship for Joe Schmidt's side, the loss to Scotland and win over Italy, but Ireland manager Paul Dean reported yesterday that Sexton will fully train today after the calf injury that has kept him out of action since January.

McBride, however, thinks the national side should now have every confidence in Ulsterman Jackson.

"It's a big question but Paddy is the guy in form," said the flanker who won 32 caps for Ireland between 1988 and 1997.

"Then you can have Sexton potentially off the bench.

"It depends on what condition he's in, whether you even could throw him straight in against France, but there's no reason not to pick Paddy.

"It's a good position for Schmidt to be in, having that confidence knowing you can pick either guy and the team won't be weakened.

"A couple of seasons ago, there was a risk if you didn't play Sexton."

Jackson has been impressive since starting eight of Ireland's last 10 games thanks to Sexton's injuries.

McBride cites Jackson's decision making as the biggest change.

"He's making the right calls at the right times," added the former Malone ace.

"Before there would have been one or two things that didn't go the way he would have wanted it to, but this year everything seems to be at the right time."

Sexton's return wasn't the only positive injury news to come out of Carton House yesterday, with Rob Kearney and Conor Murray also returning to training today.

Team manager Dean said: "Rob Kearney continues to make progress. He did some contact work (Monday) and he'll fully train tomorrow.

"If you talk to Johnny and Rob they'll both say that they're 100 per cent fit and ready to go, so we just need the medics to pass them and they need to prove to us that they are.

"Conor Murray's workload was managed in Monaghan last week. It was a difficult week for the players last week, but I'm happy to report that the outlook is positive.

"Conor was tight, so we thought it prudent to call up Kieran Marmion. He trained with Connacht on Thursday, with us on Friday and he was rested at the weekend."

Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier looks set to miss the remainder of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury. Peter O'Mahony, though, is pressing to return.

Denis McBride was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph to launch the Queen's University Rugby Hall of Fame which will be named after club stalwart Robbie Moore, who passed away in November. The club will celebrate their Lions legacy with a gala dinner on April 21.

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