Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton is trending towards being fit to face England in the Six Nations opener in Dublin.
The Leinster star returned to training on Tuesday following a period on the sidelines with a knee tendon issue.
And head coach Joe Schmidt insisted all was boding well for the 33-year-old to start opposite England’s Owen Farrell when they meet on February 2 at the Aviva Stadium.
Schmidt said of Sexton’s fitness: “He will train fully on Thursday, and we will then ramp up his training.
“Our expectation is that he will get through it without any problems. Johnny is confident and the medical staff are confident.”
The reigning Grand Slam champions head into the Six Nations as odds-on favourites with the majority of bookmakers, but Schmidt was quick to mellow expectations as builds on preparations to take on an England side who finished 2018 a lot better than they started it.
“I don’t think we are clear favourites,” he added.
“The psyche is one of enormous respect. You know if you don’t get things right, England can get a long way away from you.
“They are a team back on an upwards swing, and they will be driven to rebound well from last year’s Six Nations.”
Schmidt provided updates on the fitness of second row duo Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson on Tuesday, with both set to miss a portion of the Six Nations with knee and finger injuries, respectively.
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