Mar 14 2013
Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton has been ruled out of Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy in Rome because of a foot injury.
Just two hours after being named in the starting XV for the Stadio Olimpico showdown, Sexton has been withdrawn after tearing a tendon in training.
Paddy Jackson, who deputised for Sexton against Scotland and France while the Leinster playmaker recovered from a hamstring injury, will continue in his absence.
The loss of Sexton is yet another cruel setback to a team that has endured a staggering number of injuries throughout the 2013 Six Nations.
While Jackson was impressive in last Saturday's 13-13 draw with France, Ireland were eager to restore the leading contender to be Lions fly-half against Australia to the side.
Having recovered from the hamstring injury sustained against England in the second round of the championship, Sexton was on course to pull the strings in his team's push for a third-place finish.
But Ireland's injury curse struck again when the 27-year-old turned on his foot in training on Thursday morning in what was initially viewed as a minor complaint, only for a scan to reveal the true extent of the damage.
Brian O'Driscoll will play potentially his final Six Nations match after being included among the XV. O'Driscoll, along with centre partner Luke Marshall, was concussed against France, but both players have been passed fit to face Italy. Craig Gilroy returns on the right wing after overcoming a groin strain, replacing rib-fracture victim Fergus McFadden.
Ireland team: R Kearney (Leinster); C Gilroy (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), L Marshall (Ulster), K Earls (Munster); P Jackson (Ulster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), M McCarthy (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt).
Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), S Archer (Munster), D Toner (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), P Marshall (Ulster), I Madigan (Leinster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster).