Johnny Sexton has not taken a full part in Ireland training as he continues to recover from a thumb sprain which he suffered the week before last.
Last week, head coach Joe Schmidt described the injury as “nothing major” but as the squad moves onto the next stage of their preparations which will shift the focus more on rugby and away from strength & conditioning, the Ireland boss will certainly hope to have him fully involved.
Sexton didn’t take a full part in today’s open training session at Thomond Park and forwards coach Simon Easterby admitted that the 34-year-old was a “frustrated watcher”.
“Johnny sat out with his thumb and he’s a frustrated watcher, like most of the players are,” Easterby said.
There were a number of players who sat out today’s session or took a minimal part and these include Keith Earls, Rory Best, Josh van der Flier, Tadhg Beirne and Will Addison.
Bundee Aki received some treatment from the Ireland medical staff after pulling up during a touch rugby game but he was able to continue the session.
Easterby isn’t concerned about the players who sat out as it’s mostly about managing their workload.
“All (are) pretty good. There are obviously times when players need to be managed a little bit, whether they have niggles or just off the back of last season that they have to manage.
“But, on the whole, everyone is working really hard and it’s a good group to be around at the moment.”
Easterby also spoke specifically about Addison and Van der Flier.
“Will came off the back of that back operation last season. He has put in a good bit of work since he has come into camp. Same with other players, Josh being one of them.
“There’s a heavy workload through the week and sometimes players just need to be managed through a session like that. If they haven’t done the pitch session, they’ll always do something slightly different but no less easy.”
With Ireland’s opening warm-up game against Italy on August 10 drawing close, the narrative will inevitably focus on who will be making it onto the plane to Japan.
Easterby admits that the decision is “incredibly hard” due to the hard work the whole squad have put in to date.
“We’ve 45 players in the squad and the way the players have gone over the last few weeks, they’re making it incredibly hard on us to whittle them down. It’s going to be tough as they’re all working really hard together and working hard for each other on the pitch.
“They’re also enjoying time away from the pitch and enjoying, I guess the build-up. Just around the corner is Italy and then things start to become tougher in terms of us having to make some decisions on selection and who out of the squad gets those opportunities to perform over the August period.”