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 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.


Cut-off point
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.”

Schmidt has been in touch with Ronan O’Gara, a skills and kicking coach at Racing, but not with either of the head coaches, Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers, who had intended to rest Sexton this weekend, such has been the player’s impressive form but heavy workload.

“One of the things, unfortunately, is that they own Johnny’s services, and they’re fully entitled to make use of them, because they are pretty good services to have.”

Even losing Sexton from the week’s final session this morning is unhelpful for Schmidt. He will also anxiously wait to see how Paul O’Connell, Cian Healy and Seán O’Brien pitch up next Monday given they have taken no part this week either, although he was “relatively confident” about the latter two being able to train on Monday.


Broad sweep
Nonetheless, players have been energised by the training sessions under the new regime, with Schmidt endeavouring to apply a broad sweep in readiness for the three-match series against the unrelenting challenge of Samoa, Australia and New Zealand in turn.

Asked what he hoped to have achieved from the week, Schmidt said: “A little bit of cohesion. A little bit of clarity. A priority list of what we must do, of what we would like to be able to do and what would be a bonus, and we’ll try to focus on what are the real key things for us.”

“A big part of that is being very collective in whatever we do. They are a great bunch of lads. I know Les [Kiss] told me they were. I have really enjoyed them and their enthusiasm, their application to tasks.

“They enjoy being challenged and so I try to keep them challenged, throw a few spanners in the works for them because they keep popping up for me.”

“They’ve got to be adaptable and to be able to cope. We’ll find out next Saturday how well they are coping. As I say, it’s not a perfect world and I don’t envisage that it will be perfect next Saturday, but if there’s a couple of key elements that we can get close to right, it would be a nice start anyway.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.