Six Nations 2017: Sexton 'set to start for Ireland' against France

Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney
Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney both trained fully at Carton House on Tuesday
Six Nations: Ireland v France
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 25 February Kick-off: 16:50 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio Ulster & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary

Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney are set to play in Ireland's Six Nations game against France on Saturday after taking a full part in training on Tuesday.

Sexton, 31, missed the games against Scotland and Italy with a calf strain but is now available for selection.

The Leinster fly-half is expected to be named ahead of Ulster's Paddy Jackson, who started both those matches.

Full-back Kearney (biceps) and scrum-half Conor Murray (hip) also came through training in Kildare unscathed.

The fitness of the pair has been carefully managed since the 63-10 mauling of Italy in Rome on 11 February.

Paddy Jackson kicks one of his nine conversions in Rome
Paddy Jackson converted all nine Irish tries in Rome and also impressed in open play

Sexton likely to be replace Jackson

Jackson deputised impressively for Sexton at Murrayfield and in Rome, while Munster fly-half Ian Keatley also remains in Joe Schmidt's squad despite Joey Carbery's return to fitness.

Schmidt said after the Italy game that Jackson was putting Sexton under genuine pressure for the number 10 jersey, but the Leinster player is still tipped to return this weekend.

"Johnny gets picked like everyone else; he has no divine right to get picked. Will he get picked? That is a decision that has to be made," said coach Richie Murphy on Tuesday.

"I am not trying to create any confusion. All I am saying is that there will be a decision made on the back of how he has performed over the last two days.

"Paddy Jackson has been brilliant. We have been very lucky that while Johnny has been out Paddy has been stepping in and filling that gap really well, since probably last summer.

"He has really stepped up to the mark and he's improving all the time.

"He is still only 25 and Johnny was only getting capped for the first time at the age that Paddy is at now, so he has worked really hard with Johnny off the pitch in order to help him drive things.

"It is starting to come to a stage where there are other options there."

Ireland in the 2017 Six Nations
Saturday, 4 February, Scotland 27-22 Ireland
Saturday, 11 February, Italy 10-63 Ireland
Saturday, 25 February, 16:50 GMT: Ireland v France
Friday, 10 March, 20:05 GMT: Wales v Ireland
Saturday, 18 March, 17:00 GMT: Ireland v England

If full-back Kearney is not deemed ready by the time the team is announced at lunchtime on Thursday, Simon Zebo could be switched from the wing, while Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran is another option for the number 15 shirt.

Murray missed training on Friday because of a hip problem but looks to have recovered fully in time to take on the French in Dublin.

Josh van der Flier's absence because of a shoulder injury is offset by Peter O'Mahony's return to the squad. Van der Flier's injury looks set to rule him out of the remainder of the tournament.

Munster flanker O'Mahony missed Ireland's opening two games because of a hamstring injury.

Van der Flier came on as a second-half replacement for Sean O'Brien in both the Scotland and Italy games.

Schmidt is faced with the decision of whether to recall Jack McGrath at loose-head prop in place of his Leinster provincial team-mate Cian Healy, who started in Rome.

Centre Mathieu Bastareaud and flanker Damien Chouly have been ruled out for France, who lost to England in their opening fixture, but then overcame Scotland.

Toulon's Bastareaud was drafted back into France's squad for the Dublin game but has now been ruled out by concussion after taking a blow to the head in the Top 14 match against Lyon on Saturday.

Chouly, a replacement in the 22-16 win over Scotland, suffered an ankle injury in France training on Monday and has been replaced in the squad by Stade Francais' Raphael Lakafia.

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