Morning Chronicle - Ireland suffer huge blow as Sexton ruled out of France clash

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Ireland suffer huge blow as Sexton ruled out of France clash
Ireland suffer huge blow as Sexton ruled out of France clash

Ireland suffer huge blow as Sexton ruled out of France clash

Ireland's talismanic captain Johnny Sexton will miss this weekend's Six Nations clash with France in Paris due to a hamstring injury, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said on Thursday.

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The 36-year-old declared himself fit earlier in the week despite taking some heavy hits in the opening 29-7 victory over defending champions Wales last Saturday.

"I am gutted for Johnny as it means so much for him to captain the side," said head coach Andy Farrell at his press conference prior to flying to France.

"However, he realises too that this is a chance for the group to grow. He will still travel with us and contribute as much as he can from the sidelines."

Joey Carbery, who has only himself returned to action recently, steps in for Sexton at fly-half for his first Six Nations start.

He will partner scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park.

"I have played with him a few times before and he is a great guy to play outside," Carbery said of Gibson-Park.

"He brings great tempo and players into play so I am looking forward to that."

Carbery has impressed since he returned to the Test fold, steering them over the line against New Zealand last November -- after Sexton went off injured -- and then started in the hammering of Argentina a week later.

"He will be a leader in himself Joey," said Farrell.

"It is a funny one for me to answer (Carbery being up to it) this is not just about Joey and can he handle a big game in Paris.

"It is about us as a group, that is what Johnny does, he makes sure the group is where it should be.

"It is not just about the No. 10 and his direction of the team as far as I am concerned."

Carbery has long been seen as Sexton's long term successor and only a succession of injuries has limited his opportunities.

The 26-year-old New Zealand-born playmaker says he is "humming" for the chance he has been given for Saturday.

"Anyone who has been through long term injury knows how difficult it is," he said.

"So you get to appreciate more the good things in life sometimes.

"I am delighted to be back injury free and going into such a big game at the weekend puts everything into context.

"I am looking forward to it."

Sexton's Leinster team-mate second-row forward James Ryan replaces him as captain as has been the case in the past couple of years when he has been injured.

"It is great for us that we grow as a group and this is all part of the journey," said Farrell.

"He (Ryan) has captained them a good few times and now he and us will get to know more about ourselves."

Aside from Sexton's absence head coach Andy Farrell has selected the same starting lineup that dominated Wales.

The other personnel changes sees the recall of fit again British and Irish Lions duo lock Iain Henderson and centre Robbie Henshaw onto the replacements bench.

Jack Carty fills Carbery's spot on the bench.

Ireland to Paris seeking their 10th successive Test victory, although the vibrant French have beaten them in their last two meetings.

Ireland (15-1)

Hugo Keenan; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen; Joey Carbery, Jamison Gibson-Park; Jack Conan, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris; James Ryan (capt), Tadhg Beirne; Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Carty, Robbie Henshaw

Coach: Andy Farrell (ENG)