Updated: Friday, 28 February 2014 04:42 | By Agence France-Presse

Ireland upbeat over Sexton despite thumb injury

Six Nations leaders Ireland expect playmaker Jonathan Sexton to be fit for their March 8 match at home to Italy despite the fly-half's fitness being called into question by his French club, Racing Metro.

Ireland upbeat over Sexton despite thumb injury

Racing Metro's fly-half Jonathan Sexton kicks to score a penalty during the French Top 14 rugby Union match Racing Metro vs Oyonnax on August 31, 2013 at the Yves du Manoir stadium in Colombes - by Lionel Bonaventure

Sexton suffered a thumb injury during Ireland's 13-10 loss to England at Twickenham last weekend -- a defeat that denied the Irish the Triple Crown and ended their hopes of a Grand Slam.

Racing said Thursday that Sexton could be ruled out for between 10 days to six weeks.

However, a statement issued by the Irish Rugby Football Union later Thursday forecast Sexton would face Italy.

"The Ireland medical team have had a consultant hand specialist review Johnny and his scans," it said. 

"The ligament damage sustained does not warrant surgery and if Johnny continues his current rate of improvement we would be confident that he will be available for selection against Italy."

The 28-year-old Sexton, who has won 41 caps, does though seem set to miss Racing's French Top 14 match at Castres on Saturday.

Ireland's loss last weekend left them in a four-way tie at the top of the Six Nations with England, two-time defending champions Wales and France.

However, Ireland -- who conclude their Six Nations campaign in Paris on March 15 -- have a points difference of +42 compared to England's +21, Wales' +6 and France's +1.

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