Ireland not considering outhalf call-up as Sexton goes through protocols
Jack Carty, Ben Healy, Ian Madigan, Harry Byrne, JJ Hanrahan... you can all stand down. For now.
Ireland called up Jack Conan, earlier today, as they plan for the likely suspension of Peter O'Mahony after his red card against Wales. However, defence coach Simon Easterby says the senior squad are happy with just Ross Byrne and Billy Burns for the next day or so.
Johnny Sexton went for a Head Injury Assessment after Ireland's 21-16 loss to Wales and he is currently undergoing the six stages of the Return To Play protocols. Should Sexton get through each stage without reporting any concussion-like symptoms, he should be cleared to face France on Sunday.
However, as he is going through the RTP markers, Sexton will be able to do little on-pitch or contact work in the early part of the week. The matchday 23 for France will be named on Friday, by which stage Andy Farrell and his coaches should have a clearer idea of where they stand.
While Conan could go straight into that matchday squad, or even the starting XV [with CJ Stander switching to blindside], Easterby insists Ireland are happy with their on-deck No.10s [Billy Burns and Ross Byrne].
"No [consideration given to calling up out-halves] at this stage, no. Billy and Ross have been with us for the last couple of weeks. We're really happy with where they are at, and what they can offer the team.
"It's a credit to them, and the hard work they are putting in, when they are not necessarily getting the minutes with Johnny being skipper. But [call-ups] are not something we've thought about, partly down to the fact that we believe Johnny will get through those protocols and get back to playing. And partly because we're confident in those guys that we have in the system already, and we didn't feel the need to add to the squad."
Easterby's words will douse the flames, for now, in the home fires that were burning for Harry Byrne and Jack Carty [or insert your own local outhalf here] but the feeling is that Sexton will start so the back-up will be the only area that needs sorting.
After a tough loss against the Welsh, Easterby says 'there is no better thing to do' than get back on training and plotting for the next match.
"Mentally, the players are in a good place and they understand what's needed to get a result, this weekend, and keep this championship alive."
Peter O'Mahony, who was sent off, is "gutted" ahead of his disciplinary hearing [later today] but Easterby was keen to point out that 'people make mistakes. It happens'.
Easterby gave up the forwards coaching role, to Paul O'Connell so he could focus on defensive duties with the national side. He says the players are benefitting from O'Connell's influence and that improvements and additions were already evident against the Welsh.
As for the French, the former Ireland flanker notes how Les Bleus 'pose threats all across the park' but feels 'if we get our own house in order, it gets easier to defend any team, regardless of the individuals'.