Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has been ruled out of Saturday’s Six Nations clash with France with a hamstring strain. Head coach Andy Farrell was due to name an unchanged starting XV for the visit to Paris before influential fly-half Sexton suffered an injury in training.
Farrell doesn’t expect Sexton to miss the rest of the Championship and said the player could be fit to feature in the third round at home to Italy on February 27.
“It’s a little hamstring strain that’s definitely going to keep him out for this weekend,” Farrell said. “We don’t see it as difficult at all. It could be a week to 10 days, something like that. But what we don’t want to do is risk anything and make it worse and take him out of the competition altogether. He is expected to return very soon.
Munster’s Joey Carbery will replace the No.10 shirt, while Connacht’s Jack Carty will serve as a substitute at the Stade de France. Leinster lock James Ryan will lead the team in Sexton’s absence.
British and Irish Lions Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw return to the Irish bench through injuries in the only other changes from last weekend’s bonus points win over Wales in Dublin. Leinster second row Ryan Baird and Ulster center James Hume drop out of the matchday squad.
Carbery impressed as an understudy in the fall following Sexton’s injury in the 29-20 win over New Zealand. The 26-year-old – who fractured his elbow in December – came off the bench to take three crucial penalties against the All Blacks, before producing a man-of-the-match performance against Argentina a week later.
Ulster captain Henderson and Leinster center Henshaw have each been restricted to limited playing time this season. Lock Henderson has not played since injuring his ankle in his province’s Heineken Champions Cup win over Northampton on December 17, 17 – his only outing since Ireland beat the Kiwis in November. Henshaw has made just four appearances this season and missed part of his country’s pre-tournament training camp in Portugal with a groin problem.
Despite the 2022 Six Nations having just one round, this weekend’s clash in the French capital has already been touted as a potential title decider. Pre-tournament favorites France top the table ahead of Ireland after overcoming a slow start to beat Italy 37-10 on Sunday.
Munster’s Tadhg Beirne looked the man most at risk following Henderson’s return to fitness. He remains the only non-Leinster player in Farrell’s pack, partnering substitute captain Ryan in second tier.
Hooker Ronan Kelleher continues alongside loose prop Andrew Porter and tighthead Tadhg Furlong, with Caelan Doris and Josh Van Der Flier either side of Jack Conan in the back row.
Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park will partner the incoming Carbery, with midfield duo Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose keeping Henshaw on the bench. Andrew Conway, who scored two tries against the Welsh, and Mack Hansen – the player in the first round of the Championship after his impressive Test debut – continue on the wing, with full-back Hugo Keenan starting his 18th consecutive international.