Johnny Sexton a racing certainty to miss Samoa game
Outhalf likely to miss first Autumn international as club recall him for Biarritz game
Johnny Sexton in action during Ireland’s training session at Carton House on Thursday. The outhalf later flew back back to Paris. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Johnny Sexton’s prospects of putting his feet up for the first weekend of an arduous season thus far have receded, thereby jeopardising his chances of playing for Ireland in their Guinness Series opening against Samoa on Saturday week. Racing Metro are set to name the Ireland outhalf on the bench, at the very least, for their Top 14 match away to bottom-of-the-table Biarritz on Saturday.
There is even a chance that Sexton will be named to start if Jonathan Wisniewski’s quad strain flares up again, given Juan Martin Hernandez is hamstrung and their only other alternative at outhalf, Benjamin Dambielle, is to start at fullback.
The best case scenario from an Irish perspective is that Wisniewski starts and Racing are ahead comfortably by the 50-60 minute mark, so that the Racing coaches can afford to keep Sexton on the bench for the 80 minutes.
On balance though, Sexton is likely to play some part, with the player returning to Paris last night. It will be less than ideal for Joe Schmidt to even have Sexton travelling with the Racing squad by train to Biarritz on Saturday and be on the bench.
Either way, the Irish coach will rest Sexton on Monday, and with Tuesday a cut-off point for next Thursday’s selection on the basis that Wednesday is a rest day and that would leave only Thursday’s session prior to a light captain’s run at the Aviva the day before the game. If Sexton plays against Biarritz he probably won’t play against Samoa.
“Probably not,” admitted Schmidt at the team’s Carton House base yesterday. “He does have an eight day period post the November series to have a rest, so if he’s feeling right up to it and he feels he can take on the three match series and maintain a level of performance, fitness and enthusiasm through that period, then we would certainly look at that. Any decision we do make will be in discussion with Johnny.”
Sexton has already played 13 games for Racing this season, starting all but two of them, and Schmidt revealed: “He just was pretty tired at the start of the week to be honest, and he was pretty flat.
“I know Johnny pretty well at this stage. He’s a pretty buoyant character, and a pretty bossy character, in a really good sense, because he gives great direction on the field. And he was definitely a bit flat at the start of the week.”
“He’s bouncing back now but he is also taking a flight back to Paris this evening. That’s unfortunately the way it is. If Johnny is run down next week and he does play at the weekend against Biarritz, it’s a great opportunity for Paddy or Ian to step up and try and make a mark.”