Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton fit to face England as Ireland look to save face and avoid unwanted record

Ireland hope to have both Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton available to face England in their final Six Nations encounter as Joe Schmidt’s side attempt to save face by preventing their rivals claiming a second successive Grand Slam.

Both Murray and Sexton were forced off the field during the disappointing 22-9 defeat by Wales last Friday night that subsequently ended Ireland’s hopes of winning the Six Nations title, which was confirmed when England thrashed Scotland the following day.

Murray was replaced shortly after half-time as he struggled to cope with a ‘stinger’ injury to his left shoulder, while Sexton required a Head Injury Assessment after taking a blow to the head. However, the Ireland team manager, Paul Dean, confirmed that Sexton came through the HIA unscathed, and should partner Murray again at half-back when they face England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.

“Johnny Sexton underwent a precautionary HIA at the weekend. Concussion has been ruled out and he’s available for selection,” Dean said on Monday.

“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.”

The news isn’t so good though for the veteran wing, Tommy Bowe, who has to be taken from the field on a cart just seconds after coming on as a second-half replacement, with Dean confirming that the initial prognosis is a broken leg.

“Tommy Bowe has a suspected fracture of his left leg,” he added. “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 must beat England to not only stop them from winning the Grand Slam and setting a new world record of 19 consecutive victories, but also to stop them having an unwanted record bestowed on the current side, given that they have not failed to win any of their three Triple Crown matches since 1998. A 27-22 defeat by Scotland on the opening weekend and last Friday’s loss to Wales leaves Ireland staring at the humiliation of failing to beat any of their nearest rivals, but Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony has stood by head coach Schmidt and insisted that the squad still have full confidence in the New Zealander.

“Four months ago you go and beat the All Blacks, and it’s a different press conference to what we’re having now,” O’Mahony said on Monday.

“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.

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