Ireland coach Joe Schmidt plays down Johnny Sexton injury after Russia victory
Joe Schmidt has insisted Johnny Sexton will be “fine” to face Samoa despite the fly-half icing his troublesome thigh after being withdrawn in the 35-0 win over Russia.
Sexton captained Ireland for the first time on Thursday night, but was replaced by Jack Carty for the second-half of his side’s five-try win over the Bears.
British and Irish Lions fly-half Sexton had declared himself 100 per cent fit to take on Russia after missing Ireland’s shock 19-12 loss to Japan with a thigh complaint.
But head coach Schmidt still believes Sexton will be ready for Ireland’s final Pool A encounter in Fukuoka on Saturday, October 12.
Joey Carbery was a late withdrawal having suffered another ankle complaint, but Schmidt insisted both men will be ready for the Samoans.
“Johnny’s all good and will be fine for Samoa, and Joey is good,” said Schmidt.
“I think Joey would have been okay to play, but Conor Murray was very keen to play. So Joey is hopefully fine.”
Rob Kearney, Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Andrew Conway and Garry Ringrose all crossed as Ireland secured a vital bonus-point win over Russia.
The victory puts Ireland back on course for the quarter-finals, with a win over Samoa all that is needed to qualify for the last eight.
Jordi Murphy lasted just 26 minutes before departing with a rib problem, having only arrived in Japan in midweek to replace the injured Jack Conan.
And now Ireland will wait for an update on the Ulster star before knowing how quickly he will be back to fitness.
“Jordi just got squeezed in the ribs, so he may have popped a rib there. We’re just going to get him checked out,” said Schmidt. “So we’ll see what that comes back like.
“And Rob Kearney I think he’s okay, again we’re going to give him 50 or 60, so making the change when we did, he just felt a little bit tight in the groin. We just felt it was about time to take him off anyway.”
Kearney raced in Ireland’s quickest-ever World Cup try after just 90 seconds, with a typical Schmidt set play drawing immediate dividend.
Ireland laboured through the contest, always likely to seal the bonus-point win but making hard work of their ultimate goal.
Schmidt’s men now have nine days before facing Samoa, with Ireland doubtless keen to rest some tired bodies.
Despite some frustrations Schmidt insisted he remains content with Ireland’s situation, with his side still able to top Pool A even in spite of their shock 19-12 loss to Japan.
“I don’t think we lost our way against Russia we just didn’t convert some chances,” said Schmidt.
“I think there were more things that pleased me than disappointed me definitely. We started well again, with two early tries.
“Then we made a bit of hard work of it. One of the plans we had was to try to get a few scores early if we could.
“Because the longer the game goes here the more moisture there is on the air, on the ground and on the ball, so we knew it would get more difficult as time went on.
“And that was probably a little bit of consternation in that third quarter.
“Then probably to finish with the best try of the night at the end. Just to get that 35 point differential and keep a clean sheet.”
Russia boss Lyn Jones and captain Vasily Artemyev both backed Ireland to crank up the levels in their expected quarter-final.
“If they had been playing the All Blacks tonight they would have had a bigger sting in the tail,” said Jones, of Ireland.
“The error count with Ireland is very, very low. You wait for one with Ireland and it just doesn’t come.
“I can’t believe Johnny Sexton’s 34, it feels like only yesterday that he was starting.”
Former Blackrock College student Artemyev hailed Sexton and backed Ireland to produce something special come the knockout stages.
“I have every belief that Ireland can go far in this competition,” said Artemyev.
“He just brings that composure, Ireland play a really composed game.
“He’s one of the best out-halves in the world and he’s still going very strong. He’s a quality player.”