Fit again, Sexton returns to Ireland team to face France

Jackson deputised impressively for Sexton at Murrayfield and in Rome, but must settle for a place on the bench on this occasion. "Two years ago Johnny came back in against the French and I thought played really well".

Back in 2015, after 12 weeks out due to concussions precautions, Sexton returned in the middle of the Six Nations and was named man-of-the-match in an 18-11 victory [his fourth in eight games against France].

"We debated it", Schmidt said after naming his team in Maynooth today, "we believe we get a good balance with having both players available". "It's very hard to come into a side and come off the bench when you haven't played".

"It's a balance. I think on Saturday based on how things have gone in the past we'll probably see both players in some stage of the game".

"And he is. He trained well on Thursday and fully on Tuesday".

He said in a press conference at the team hotel today: "I think they're really unsafe".

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Ireland are as close to full-strength as they are ever going to get for this Saturday's visit of France.

Sexton has been out of action since picking up the issue during Leinster's Champions Cup draw with Castres last month, but will start this weekend at the expense of Paddy Jackson, who has impressed in the Leinster fly-half's absence. His replacement Paddy Jackson was lauded for his performances during the opening two games in the Six Nations in which Ireland lost narrowly to Scotland but beat Italy 63-10 away.

"Paddy took it with a smile and said he would be ready when he is needed off the bench".

Fit again Peter O'Mahony replaces the injured Josh van der Flier, while Iain Henderson is selected ahead of Ultan Dillane who failed to make the squad earlier this week.

Ireland: Kearney, Earls, Ringrose, Henshaw, Zebo, Sexton, Murray, McGrath, Best, Furlong, D Ryan, Toner, CJ Stander, O'Brien, Heaslip.

  • Tabitha Byrd