Six Nations 2017: Johnny Sexton joins opener absentees

Joe Schmidt, Eddie Jones, Vern Cotter and Rob Howley

As the start of the Six Nations nears, the respective coaches spent as much time talking about who wouldn’t feature in the opening weekend as would.

The duration of Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton’s absence was a theme for coach Joe Schmidt, while England counterpart Eddie Jones’ – sporting a shiner of his own – updated the media on his host of walking wounded.

Scotland’s Vern Cotter rued the absence of props WP Nel and Alasdair Dickinson, while Wales’ Rob Howley is without first-choice forwards Luke Charteris and Taulupe Faletau.

Ireland

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v Scotland, Edinburgh, Sat, 14:25 GMT, BBC One

Henderson & O’Brien in Ireland team

Sexton will miss Saturday’s meeting with Scotland with a tight calf, but Schmidt raised the prospect that the 63-cap Leinster fly-half could also miss Ireland’s second match against Italy on 11 February.

“Realistically, Johnny is an outside chance for Italy. He’s probably played about 82 minutes in the last eight test matches,” said Schmidt.

“In the three Six Nations I have been involved in, Johnny has dominated the number 10 position so we’re still hopeful that he can come back in and do that for us.”

Paddy Jackson, who deputised for Sexton in Ireland’s autumn Test win over Australia, has been given another chance to stake his claim, while flanker Sean O’Brien is fit again at openside.

England

Maro Itoje

v France, Twickenham, Sat, 16:50 GMT

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Before taking on the England role, Jones had suggested that flanker Chris Robshaw was short of international class.