Schmidt looking for sensible way forward to benefit Sexton

Coach in talks with Racing Metro's Laurent Labit about how best to manage outhalf's time

Joe Schmidt's press conference from the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. He discusses the match, the injury to Sexton and a possible coaching role for Brian O'Driscoll.

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 01:00

Johnny Sexton will remain in France to see out his two-year contract with Parisian club Racing Metro. However, Irish coach Joe Schmidt has had talks with Racing’s Laurent Labit about how best to manage the outhalf’s time between Ireland and France.

As Schmidt rightly pointed out yesterday in the Aviva Stadium, it serves both teams to find a sensible path forward that benefits the player.

Sexton went back to France with an injured thumb following Ireland’s game against England and left Stade de France last weekend with concussion, having been knocked out during the match against France.

He is now back with his club, with Schmidt’s next consideration to think ahead to Ireland’s two match tour of Argentina in the summer. Once more the amount of games Sexton can be expected to play was a pertinent part of the conversation with Labit.

“It formed some of the discussion I had with Laurent Labit,” said Schmidt. “Again some of those decisions will be made later but at this stage Racing are outside the play-offs for the Heineken Cup, so he (Sexton) won’t be playing in those three European weekends and he will have those three weekends off.

“They (Racing Metro) have effectively five Top 15 games left and there is a mass of teams at the moment in that middle of the table. If they make the top six they will have a barrage of matches. If they get through that they will play right through until the end.

“If not, Johnny may not have had that much rugby and it may be pertinent to bring him along (to Argentina).

‘Pivotal position’
“One of the things is that you want to be growing the other 10s but at the same time it is a pretty pivotal position for any team to have some sort of continuity. That is one of those things that we will have a think about this week and then we will try to track . . . get to the end of the season and we can make the decision at that stage because we will know a little bit more about Johnny’s condition then.”

Schmidt has been impressed with Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan filling in when Sexton has been rested or injured. Neither player had much game time with Ireland but Schmidt also explained that he is still adjusting to the number of matches Ireland have where he can blood younger players.

Currently Ireland’s schedule holds just 10 international matches before September’s 2015 World Cup start against Canada in the Millennium Stadium (although a number of warm-up games will be added a later date) and Schmidt considers five of those matches, the 2015 Six Nations Championship, as effective final matches.

The November series this year also brings him up against South Africa and Australia.

“I thought Ian (Madigan) came on and did really well because what he did he did very, very solidly and I’d have the same confidence about Paddy. To get them game time would help,” said Schmidt.

‘Is massive’
“I’m just trying to work it out myself. With 10 games to go before we actually go into the lead-up to the World Cup, five of those are the finals that we play week to week during our Six Nations because for us personally Six Nations is massive. Six Nations is or annual tournament that we play in and that is the one that you have got to be repeatedly good at.”

Schmidt added that the World Cup is once every four years and it has got to be kept in mind, with the five Six Nations Test matches central to the team’s thinking.

Next year Ireland will be defending champions in a World Cup year and to go outside the players who are comfortable and in-form is difficult.

“That was one of the things that to be honest I miscalculated,” said the head coach.

“I knew how to count weeks but I thought we would be able to give a little more opportunity without losing continuity.

“But when you play England one week and then you have got a week off and then you play Italy and then you play France . . . and if we didn’t play players against Italy, they would have had two full weeks off and is that the best preparation for a massive game at the end? That was really the way we worked it out.”

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