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.