Sexton’s physical and mental well-being a worry for Schmidt
Racing Metro outhalf admits he was a little tired against Grenoble
Racing Metro’s Jonathan Sexton is starting to feel the effects of a heavy workload.
After limited holidays, an off-season scarcely worth the name and a very heavy workload in the first two months of the season, Jonathan Sexton has understandably admitted to feeling more tired than he normally would at this stage of a season with Leinster.
Sexton pitched up with Racing Metro just three weeks’ after playing a leading role in the Lions’ convincing win in the third Test decider against Australia. Within two weeks he played for his new club in a pre-season friendly against Harlequins and a week later made his Top 14 debut against Brive in La Rochelle.
Since then, the first-choice Irish outhalf has played in all of Racing’s 10 competitive games this season – starting all but two of them. By contrast, Sexton’s fellow Leinster Lions have played just two or three games after four weeks’ holidays and five weeks’ pre-season.
Following a disappointing defeat at home to Grenoble a fortnight ago which left Racing eighth domestically and an ensuing telling-off from club owner Jacky Lorenzetti and head coach Laurent Labit, Racing’s determination and spirit earned them a 13-9 win in the Heineken Cup at home to Clermont Auvergne.
“I was perhaps a little tired against Grenoble,” admits Sexton. “I’ve already played nine matches in eight weeks. After the Lions tour my holidays were very short. So yes, it is difficult. Normally when I was playing for Leinster I played just one or two matches before the start of the H Cup. Now I’ve already had nine!”
To put this in further context, for the whole of last season Sexton played only 10 Rabo Pro12 matches. Nor is his workload liable to be eased any time soon, due to the absence through injury of the other outhalves in the squad, Jonathan Wisniewski and Benjamin Dambielle.
Juan Hernandez is another potential outhalf but while playing at inside centre in his seasonal return for les Ciel et Blanc against Clermont last week, the Puma was injured after 20 minutes.
Will be sidelined
Compounding this, their French scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud will be sidelined for at least six weeks after suffering a broken hand against Clermont, with the ex-Bulls scrumhalf Ruan Snyman likely to deputise. Their two Welsh signings have failed to shine, with Jamie Roberts unexceptional in three outings before being sidelined until mid-November due to an ankle injury.
Although Sexton has been kicking superbly, Racing have made scant use of his running and creative skills.
“This game is going to count for more,” assistant coach Laurent Travers said of tomorrow’s game away to the Scarlets, also surprise winners in the opening round away to Harlequins.
“There is what is called a business, and the business, we have seen. It is solid. We see that the players we want to build together. Now, it must take binding and we can be much more effective offensively.”
Their one try against Clermont was an 80 metre breakaway off turnover ball by winger Marc Andreu, which was just their 10th in 10 games this season (only Biarritz and Grenoble, with seven and eight, have scored less in the Top 14).
But it is Sexton’s mental and physical well-being which is of most concern hereabouts, not least to Joe Schmidt, with the upcoming November tests in mind, never mind the Six Nations.By Gerry Thornley