herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Sexton injury saga is aired in public

Blues target Europe for Sexton's return

Leinster backs coach Girvan Dempsey had to explain the state of Jonathan Sexton’s physical wellbeing after Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt suggested that the out-half might benefit from a period away from the game. Pic: Sportsfile
Leinster backs coach Girvan Dempsey had to explain the state of Jonathan Sexton’s physical wellbeing after Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt suggested that the out-half might benefit from a period away from the game. Pic: Sportsfile

The Jonathan Sexton saga could be set to drag on until Leinster announce their selection for the Rugby Champions Cup date at Northampton Saints around lunchtime on Thursday week.

The province is at a loss to understand why Ireland coach Joe Schmidt would come out 'publicly' with a stance contrary to that which he took up a week earlier.

When Sexton limped out of the Ireland-New Zealand match, Schmidt was opposed to the media-prompted suggestion that his out-half might benefit from a period out of the game.

In the meantime, on further consideration, Schmidt put forward the assertion, after the Ireland-Australia match, that "discussions will take place and we'll have a clearer picture after that."

It is entirely possible, even likely, that the medical advice, subsequent to New Zealand, had indicated time away from the game could be beneficial to a player increasingly prone to injury.

Jonathan Sexton. Pic: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton. Pic: Sportsfile

The crux of the matter is that this critical discussion should have taken place behind closed doors, far from prying eyes.

Instead, Leinster backs coach Girvan Dempsey had to explain the state of Sexton's physical well-being in front of a set of committed hacks out in UCD yesterday.

"Look, Johnny is unfortunately out injured at the moment and, from our perspective, he's undergoing a rehab programme in conjunction with the IRFU and ourselves," he said.

"We're hopeful he will make good progress in that and that he will be back fairly soon.

"He's a very important player and we want him on the field, so that's where really where we are at."

The problem, from Leinster's point of view, is that the IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora, did exactly the same thing recently in 'publicly' taking credit for the graduation of Joey Carbery, citing how the IRFU had refused Leinster's request to sign an out-half when Ian Madigan announced his departure.

In this matter, Leinster coach Leo Cullen was forced to come out and contradict this assertion given how Carbery made his Leinster debut last season. The much-lauded Irish system is not without its wrinkles.

Schmidt must put the interests of Ireland above all others; Cullen the interests of Leinster. This is the exact reverse of England and France where the clubs hold the ultimate power.

Dempsey expects medical expertise to rule on Sexton's state to play.

Medical

"I think it has to be the medical staff because they will have all the relevant scans, the relevant data, the relevant information to hand.

"They'll look at all those and look to try and resolve the issue through finding the root of the problem."

This leads straight into the current plan for Sexton.

"We're hopeful that he could be back available, depending on how the rehab goes, for selection for Northampton.

"That's our target."

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