‘Odds are stacked against him’: Leinster coach fears injured Sexton to miss rest of season

Grand Slam win over England was a double-edged sword for Ireland and Leinster captain, says Robin McBryde

Leinster’s official missive yesterday stated that Johnny Sexton is “likely to be out for the remainder of the season”, and assistant coach Robin McBryde held out scant hope that their captain might yet feature for his province were they to maintain their twin trophy pursuit deep into the end of the campaign.

Sexton will see a specialist in London today and have a procedure on the groin injury picked up in last Saturday week’s Grand Slam coronation against England, and McBryde said: “I’m not sure if he’s been ruled out yet but obviously the odds are stacked against him.

“It would be great if he was back in time. It’s just tough, you feel for him a little bit. I think everyone who has played rugby will know when you’re counting how many games you’ve got left, you just want everything to go right. But there you go, I’m sure that winning a Grand Slam will make up for quite a bit of it.”

While that will provide considerable consolation for Sexton, McBryde echoed the collective disappointment for their four-time Champions Cup winner that he will, in all probability, not be able to help them win a fifth star.


“Definitely, at this stage of his career on the back of a dream come true with regards to a Grand Slam. Yeah, disappointed for Johnny obviously that it’s happened so quickly.

“It was pretty much a double-edged sword, I’d imagine, that last game against England, but there we are. He has been in rugby for long enough, he knows you’ve got to sometimes take the rough with the smooth so it’s just a case of getting better as quickly as possible, really, with the World Cup looming. Hopefully, things will go to plan and he’ll be fit and up and running for that.”

The other considerable consolation is that Sexton’s injury is unlikely to affect his preparations for a fourth World Cup campaign later in the year.

“In many ways, it could benefit Johnny that he’s fresh, fit and ready to go,” said McBryde. “Someone of his experience doesn’t need game time, I think he’ll get that in training. He’s the utmost professional in terms of looking after his own game with the amount of kicking he does, his attention to detail, and I’m sure he’ll get enough reps and he’ll be back before you know it.”

In times past, Leinster have placed great store in winning a trophy as a parting gift for retiring or departing stalwarts, with the additional prize of having them lift a trophy in their suits.

“Yeah, you could do if you need it,” said McBryde, “but I’m not sure they need that extra motivation, to be honest with you. They’re in a great place at the moment on the back of an outstanding Grand Slam and everybody’s hungry. The game on the weekend as well, the season’s not done and dusted for anyone really. Then you’ve got the World Cup around the corner, so it’s a good time to be involved.”

The Six Nations, and especially that English game has taken a heavy toll. Needless to say, McBryde could not make any estimate on whether Leinster’s trio of Irish players who are observing the return-to-play protocols after suffering injuries in that Six Nations finale, namely Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose and Caelan Doris, but there must be doubts around their availability for next Saturday’s Champions Cup last-16 tie against Ulster at the Aviva Stadium, for which more than 48,000 tickets have already been sold.

“It’s a very dangerous game,” admitted McBryde. “They’re on top of their game, I would say. From a forward point of view, the forward exchanges, they’re solid at scrum, the maul – everyone is fearful of their maul. Whoever they select at hooker, Tom Stewart or Rob Herring, both equally good at making very good decisions at the back of that maul.

“They’ve been very effective and they’ve scored against us so they’re hitting their straps at the right time. They’ve got momentum behind them and it’s going to be really, really tough. They’ve got inside knowledge on our guys coming from camp as well. I compare the stats from the URC or whatever, then you look at the inter-provincial matches as well, those stats paint a different picture with regards to how competitive they’ve been in certain areas. I’m sure it will be no different again.”

“In a derby, the form books go out the window. It’s all on the day. Stuart made the point today – it’s knock-out rugby, it’s not a league game. You don’t get a second chance at it. It’s a one-off game, a standalone, so it’s going to be a huge Test for us, definitely.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times