Six Nations Championship 2017

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray cleared for Ireland’s Six Nations finale against England

Schmidt given fitness boost over duo ahead of Dublin climax but Bowe replaced by McFadden after suffering suspected broken leg

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 2:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 2:22pm

Ireland are confident key half-back duo Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton will both be fit to face England in Saturday’s Six Nations climax in Dublin.

Fly-half Sexton has been cleared of concussion after taking a blow during Ireland’s 22-9 defeat by Wales in Cardiff last week, with scrum-half Murray overcoming a ‘stinger’ injury to his left shoulder in the same match.

“Johnny Sexton underwent a precautionary HIA [head injury assessment] at the weekend. Concussion has been ruled out and he’s available for selection,” Ireland team manager Paul Dean said.

“Jonathan went through all the concussion tests, so he’s completely clear.

Dean added: “Conor Murray sustained a stinger injury to his left shoulder. He’s responded well to treatment and he’s available for selection.

“A stinger injury is a curious injury, it’s a numbness that happens on the pitch. You recover quite quickly, all going well.”

Ireland have, however, brought in Leinster’s Fergus McFadden after Ulster wing Tommy Bowe suffered a suspected broken leg at the Principality Stadium.

Following defeats by Scotland and Wales this season, Ireland will be desperate to avoid losing all three of their Triple Crown matches this season.

England, who’ve already wrapped up the Six Nations title, have a second successive grand slam in their sights and will head to Dublin knowing a win on Sunday morning (Hong Kong time) would see them set a new record of 19 successive test wins by a ‘tier one’ or leading rugby union nation.

Ireland ended New Zealand’s 18-match winning streak with a stunning 40-29 success in Chicago in November under coach Joe Schmidt, whose tactics were called into question on Friday as the Irish repeatedly hammered away at the Welsh line with little to show for their efforts on the scoreboard.

“I’ve said it already but we really are close,” said Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony. “Four months ago you go and beat the All Blacks, and it’s a different press conference to what we’re having now.

“So it’s not like we’ve thrown everything out and have done something different. We can beat anybody in the world on our day.

“So we just need to be a little bit more accurate and it’s nearly there – it’s the smallest of margins.”