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Ireland captain Johnny Sexton ‘good to go’ for second Test against New Zealand

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is in contention for the second Test against New Zealand (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is in contention for the second Test against New Zealand (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has been declared “good to go” for Saturday’s second Test against New Zealand.

Sexton was taken off with suspected concussion during the first half of his country’s 42-19 defeat to the All Blacks in the series opener in Auckland.

Ireland assistant coach Mike Catt confirmed the 36-year-old will be available for selection in Dunedin.

“Johnny is fine,” Catt said on Tuesday.

“Johnny’s fit, Johnny has passed every test that he needs to pass, so from our point of view he’s good to go.”

Sexton, who turns 37 next week, was not allowed to return to the Eden Park pitch on Saturday after slipping and colliding with New Zealand captain Sam Cane.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said after the game that his skipper had passed a second head injury assessment and refused to rule him out of the remainder of the tour.

Joey Carbery, who provided fly-half cover last autumn and in the Six Nations, came off the bench to once again deputise for Sexton.

“He (Sexton) is a massive cog in there but I think Joey came on and did well,” said Catt.

“We got back up again and this is what touring is all about, our ability to adapt to what gets thrown at us and I think we’ve done that pretty well, so let’s hope it continues.”

Ireland face an uphill task to remain alive in the series after fading from a strong start to suffer a comprehensive defeat in the first of three Tests.

Joey Carbery, pictured, replaced Johnny Sexton in Auckland
Joey Carbery replaced Johnny Sexton in Auckland (Brian Lawless/PA)

Catt warned that the Irish camp cannot afford to “feel sorry for ourselves”.

“The nice thing is we’ve got another opportunity against some of the best players in the world,” he said.

“It’s a great a challenge for the squad as a group, how we pick ourselves up from Saturday, and let’s see how strong we really are.

“A lot of them haven’t toured, so it is very different.

“They’re away from home, it’s just relentless, especially with the midweek games (against the Maori All Blacks) as well, backing up, becoming tough, becoming resilient.

“And I think being able to pick yourself up every single training session is important because we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves or muck about.”

New Zealand pair Sam Whitelock and Tupou Vaa’i have been ruled out of the upcoming clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Veteran lock Whitelock, who became the All Blacks’ second most-capped player when he made his 133rd Test appearance at the weekend, is sidelined due to self-reported delayed concussion.

“It’s a big blow for them,” said Catt. “Sam’s played some amazing games and is a brilliant rugby player.

“But we’re under no illusions, the next person stepping in is not that far behind Sam, so it’s us focusing on our processes and getting our accuracy right.”

Vaa’i has tested positive for Covid-19, with Patrick Tuipulotu called up as a replacement by head coach Ian Foster.