Rugby Union

Ireland half-backs Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton both fit to face England in RBS 6 Nations meeting

Ireland's Conor Murraywill be fit to face England in the Six Nations clash this weekend
Nick Purewal

IRELAND have patched up influential half-backs Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton and insist both will be fit to face England in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations finale.

Sexton has passed a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) and been cleared of concussion, while Murray has shaken off a 'stinger' problem to his left shoulder.

Both Sexton and Murray were in the wars in Ireland's 22-9 defeat in Wales on Friday night, but Ireland remain adamant the key duo will feature in Dublin this weekend.

Ulster wing Tommy Bowe suffered a suspected broken leg in Cardiff, and has been replaced in Ireland's squad by Leinster's Fergus McFadden.

"Johnny Sexton underwent a precautionary HIA 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.

"He has a black eye, which is not his best look, but other than that, he should be fine.

"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.

"Conor's such a very good player, we gave him as much opportunity to recover from the stinger, but as you all saw he didn't recover completely, and we had to take him off. But he's fine, he's fine.

"Tommy Bowe has a suspected fracture of his left leg.

"He'll see a specialist (on Monday) and he's back at Ulster, and we wish Tommy a speedy recovery.

"Fergus McFadden will train with the squad this week, and he replaces Tommy Bowe."

Ireland will be seeking to avoid losing all three Triple Crown matches in one championship for the first time since 1998 in Saturday's Aviva Stadium showdown.

England will be chasing back-to-back Grand Slam crowns for the first time in the Six Nations era, and also the outright world record of 19 consecutive victories.

Even when Ireland won only one game in the 2013 tournament, they were still victorious over Wales.

But after the 22-9 loss in Cardiff and the 27-22 defeat in Scotland, Joe Schmidt's side are staring down a hugely unwanted Six Nations first if they lose to England.

Ireland bashed away repeatedly at Wales' defence without forcing any real breakthrough in Cardiff, but flanker Peter O'Mahony has no doubts in head coach Schmidt's approach.

O'Mahony believes Ireland can still end the Six Nations on a high to reassert the power that proved so evident in November's 40-29 win over New Zealand.

Ireland ended New Zealand's record winning run at 18 in Chicago, and sees no reason why Schmidt's team cannot stop Eddie Jones' England side on the same number this weekend.

Asked if he had any doubts in Ireland's coaching plan, O'Mahony replied: "Not at all. I've said it already but we really are close.

"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. It's pretty much the same squad - we've just got to finish off the small things.

"And 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.

"We know we're a good enough team to complete and finish out the drills we're asked to. And if we can do that, there aren't many teams that can compete with us. But we're just a little bit off."

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