Lions Tour: Jenkins admits ‘durability’ played factor in Sexton’s omission
Kicking coach says decision ‘very, very tough’ on Ireland outhalf
Ireland outhalf Johnny Sexton has missed out on Lions selection for the tour to South Africa. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
The Lions kicking coach Neil Jenkins has intimated that the decision to stand down Johnny Sexton for six weeks was a factor in raising questions about the Irish captain’s durability for the Lions tour to South Africa.
This is despite assurances to the Lions’ medical staff that Sexton’s lay-off was in large part precautionary and that he is training fully at the moment.
Indeed Stuart Lancaster also confirmed on Tuesday that “Johnny is absolutely training the house down, he’s trained today. His eye is in, I can tell with Johnny when his eye is in, he just sees the game so quickly. From my point of view he’s a world class player and he’d be a huge addition, I think personally.”
Asked about Sexton’s exclusion, despite landing 25 out of 26 kicks in the Six Nations to finish as the tournament’s top scorer, Jenkins said: “Yeah, obviously it’s very tough on Johnny. I agree he’s a fantastic player. His goal-kicking in this Six Nations has been very, very good, the best I’ve seen him kick, off the floor especially. I know he’s very good anyway but he’s been exceptional in this Six Nations.
“Look it’s very, very tough. We’ve got Dan Biggar in Wales, Finn Russell, Owen Farrell and obviously Johnny. Someone was going to miss out and Finn missed out four years ago and this time, sadly, it’s Johnny.
“I don’t think it’s an easy way to go around it really. He’s a fantastic player and it’s very difficult to pick [from] the four of them and just sadly at this moment in time Johnny has missed out.”
Asked if Sexton’s recent head issues played any part in his omission or if it was solely based on the form of the other outhalves, Jenkins said: “Obviously there is a little bit of concern about the concussions and stuff like that, there’s no doubting that. But that’s obviously for the medical staff and the medical side of things and a little bit of durability.
“But look, he’s a fantastic player, I’m not questioning that whatsoever but it’s very difficult where we’re going with the physicality and presence we’re going to bring, and the other boys are very, very good themselves.
“So it was very difficult, whoever was going to miss out was going to be extremely disappointed and rightly so and just as I sad, sadly at this point in time it’s Johnny. He’s a fantastic player and he’s been exceptional on the last two Lions tours that I’ve been on, he’s been very good with myself.
“I just see myself as a facilitator for these boys. They’re the best of the best when they turn up and we try to keep them doing the same stuff that they do whether it be with Ireland, Scotland, England or Wales.
“He had a good Six Nations but the other guys did as well. Owen is a fantastic player and been there and done it himself. It’s not an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination.”