Sexton and Henshaw set to return for Ireland in Cardiff clash

The pair’s return would hand Ireland a pre-World Cup boost.

By Press Association Published: 25 August 2019 - 10.17am
Rugby Union


Rory Best

Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw are in line to feature in Ireland’s crucial World Cup warm-up clash against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Fly-half Sexton and centre Henshaw are yet to feature in Ireland’s warm-up schedule after a series of injury niggles.

Head coach Joe Schmidt wants the experienced duo to add “energy” after Saturday’s record 57-15 thumping by England at Twickenham, with Keith Earls, James Ryan and Jack Conan all primed for action too.

Ireland v Scotland – NatWest Six Nations – Aviva Stadium
Ireland desperately need Johnny Sexton to return and hit top form for the World Cup (Donall Farmer/PA)

Asked whether Sexton and Henshaw would feature in Wales, Schmidt said: “Yes, we’ll certainly look at that. Guys like James Ryan, Jack Conan, there’s a few more guys who could come into the picture next week and probably bring a little bit of energy that we were lacking at Twickenham.

“So we’ll look at that. I think also guys like Keith Earls, those sorts of guys, we still feel will come in and add some value yet.

“We have a little bit of a plan, we have some guys who are operating on a pre-season that’s just coming to a close and they will freshen up and get into the game next week or the week after, depending on how we feel they are going.

“But we certainly need to hit the ground running at the World Cup against Scotland, so we can’t afford to be mixing and matching too much right now.”

Captain Rory Best was left to admit Ireland had once again pitched their preparations incorrectly.

Ireland conceded they had been bullied by England when losing out 32-20 at home in the opening match of this year’s Six Nations.

Schmidt’s players had been desperate to put that humbling behind them in Saturday’s Twickenham rematch, only to slip instead to an unprecedented loss.

Ireland admitted they had been undercooked for that opening Six Nations loss and were forced to reveal a similar state of affairs this weekend too.

Ireland v England – Guinness Six Nations – Aviva Stadium
Rory Best, front, has admitted Ireland have plenty to improve in precious little time (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We thought we were in a good place, but it was a big lesson for us on Saturday,” said Best.

“There’s not a lot else you can do except hold our hands up today and say we weren’t good enough there.

“We’ve had a few iffy days before and come back the next week and performed really well. And we have belief in our process.

“Sometimes you think you are in a good place, and then you come up against something that you’re not expecting to be as good as it was.

Ireland Team Announcement – Carton House
Joe Schmidt will heap the pressure on Ireland this week (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I think we’ve got to put more pressure on ourselves in training.

“You put pressure on yourselves, but there’s nothing quite like the pressure in games.

“And that can leave you thinking, ‘Right we’re in a really good spot’, or it’s, ‘Oh s***, we’re not quite where we want to be’.

“And today was a swear word, where we’re not quite where we want to be.

Ireland v Italy – NatWest 6 Nations – Aviva Stadium
Robbie Henshaw is expected back in Ireland action shortly (Brian Lawless/PA)

“The lineout’s one of those problems, so we’ve got to make sure we can nail that.

“We’re really happy with our process but we just let that drift a little bit.

“Both hookers were a wee bit slow to get set, the line was a bit slow coming in and we can’t have that again.”