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Jonathan Sexton is main worry for Six Nations showdown

By Michael Sadlier

Jonathan Sexton appears to be the player causing most concern for Ireland's massive Six Nations clash with Wales tomorrow week in the Millennium Stadium.

Sexton tweaked a hamstring last Sunday against England when kicking the conversion of Robbie Henshaw's try, and sat out Ireland's open training session at the Kingspan Stadium yesterday.

Both Sean O'Brien and Jared Payne, who are undergoing return to play protocols after picking up concussions on Sunday, took full part in the session.

Jamie Heaslip was also a visible presence at the Kingspan when the Irish squad trained against a group of Ulster squad and academy players in front of 5,000 supporters.

The number eight, who suffered back damage after the now banned France second row Pascal Pape struck him with his knee, was reported to be making enough progress to feature in Cardiff.

Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby gave the update on Sexton and stressed that the management of his injury was paramount ahead of next week's training sessions.

"A hamstring is a really tricky one and you can't predict too far ahead," Easterby said.

"He's in the right place to get his hamstring right, and train fully next week for the Wales game, but a hamstring is a difficult one and there is no guarantee that that will come right by Monday or Tuesday.

"But we'll give him the best chance and at the moment he's being given that opportunity," he added of the Racing Metro player who has stayed on with the Ireland squad.

As for Heaslip, Easterby said: "He won't take any contact yet but that will be the progression next week and if he reacts positively then there is no reason that he can't be available for Wales."

Players not present yesterday, including Ulster's Iain Henderson, have been released for game-time this weekend.

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