Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton and vice-captain James Ryan are on track to feature in Sunday’s “must-win” Six Nations clash with France, says coach Simon Easterby. Fly-half Sexton and lock Ryan must each undergo phased return-to-play protocols having suffered head knocks during the weekend loss to Wales.
“As far as we are aware, that is exactly what we are planning (to have both players available),” said Easterby. “Our primary focus is their health and safety, first and foremost. If a player – which may well be the case at some stage this week – feels like they can’t complete the (protocol) stage they’re in, then they obviously have to drop back a stage and that compromises their availability.”
“We’re aware of that and we have plans in place to potentially have to deal with that, if they come along.” he added. “But, at the moment, we’re planning they get through each stage each day and they get that one step further to making themselves available by the weekend.”
“I think that’s a good way of putting it. We obviously didn’t get the start we would have hoped for and it puts us in a more difficult position than we think we should have been.” Easterby continued. “But there is still a massive opportunity at the weekend, the French coming to town. An opportunity to hopefully get parity in terms of numbers on the pitch and have the opportunity to showcase what we feel like we’re building. For us to stay alive in the competition, it’s a must-win.”