Jacob Stockdale could feature in Ireland's third Six Nations game, says Andy Farrell

Johnny Sexton congratulates Jacob Stockdale after one of the Ulster's Ireland tries
Johnny Sexton (left) hopes to available for the opener against Wales but Jacob Stockdale is aiming for the Italy match

Ireland coach Andy Farrell hopes Jacob Stockdale will be available for the country's third Six Nations match against Italy on 27 February.

A knee injury meant Stockdale was an absentee from Ireland's 36-man Six Nations squad announced on Monday.

"He probably won't be available for the first two games but everything going well he'll be available for the remainder," said Farrell.

Ireland face Wales away on 7 February before hosting France seven days later.

Stockdale, who has featured at full-back for Ireland in recent times after making his name as a try-scoring wing, was injured in Ulster's Pro14 win over Munster on 2 January.

"He's progressing well - it's nothing too serious, he has a bit of bone bruise and it takes a bit of time to settle down," added the Ireland coach.

The experienced Ireland squad will be captained by the 35-year-old Johnny Sexton, who is optimistic he will be fully fit for the Wales game after picking up a minor muscle injury in Leinster's win over Munster last weekend.

"I was in a good place before the Munster game. Get back on the horse and be ready next week," said the Ireland skipper.

"It's not major and hopefully I will be back training by the end of the week and hopefully be fit for the Wales game."

Ireland coach Andy Farrell
Ireland finished in third spot in the championship in Farrell's first campaign in charge last year

Farrell said Ireland need to get through their Six Nations opener against Wales before declaring their ambitions for the championship.

France and England have been tipped as favourites while Ireland, who finished third in the past two campaigns after winning the title three times between 2014 and 2018, are third in the bookmakers' pecking order.

"We know where we're going, we know how far we are and we've made good strides; we're nearly where we want to be," Farrell told reporters.

"To win the Six Nations there's a few things we need to do better. We've got to through the first game and then we'll assess where we're at before thinking about the last game.

"We're a side that has developed in many ways but we're [still] putting the pieces together."

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