Johnny Sexton still struggling after sustaining concussion against Australia

Outhalf suffering headaches and will miss at least first two matches of Six Nations

Ireland and Racing Metro 92 outhalf Jonathan Sexton is still struggling with the effects of a concussion sustained almost a month ago while playing for his country against Australia to the point where he continues to suffer headaches while running and passing in non-contact training.

Sexton's accidental clash of heads with Rob Kearney in the Aussie match is one that may force him to miss more than Ireland's first two matches – against Italy and France – in the Six Nations Championship, as was first mooted.

Sexton articulated his disappointment: “I’m feeling very disappointed for the club and my team-mates that I won’t be able to contribute to the team for such a long period. But I’ll make sure I come back better than ever, and hopefully, make up for lost time when I’m fit to do so.” He didn’t elaborate when that might be.

His former international team-mate and Racing kicking and skills’ coach Ronan O’Gara offered a stark insight into Sexton’s condition. “At this stage he’s not anywhere near returning to play anyway, as he has headaches passing a ball and running; so that’s not a good sign.


“It’s in everyone’s interests, particularly us as coaches, to make sure everything is right before he even contemplates going back on a pitch.

“I think one in three sessions is troublesome at the minute, he does two or three sessions of no symptoms, but without doing contact that would obviously worry you. So you’d have to feel he has a substantial way to go before he’s even contemplating even hitting a tackle shield.


“It (concussion) is very topical in France at the minute. There’s people doing road tours of I suppose concussion, not to say victims but cases, and some of the stories we have witnessed have been hugely frightening.

“I think Johnny got to see them so he’s making sure that he doesn’t fall into any of those traps of trying to return too early to play and cause long-term damage.”

The club's co-coach Laurent Labit admitted that it's always difficult when you are "deprived of a player of Johnny's class. His health is more important than whether we win or lose. We have deep respect for the players' health. We just hope that we will come back fully fit to end the season on a high for the Ciel et Blanc."

Sexton’s return to contact work will only come once he receives permission from Parisian neurologist, Dr Jean-François Cherman, a leading authority on concussion. The initial prognosis was a 12-week sabbatical from playing until February 14th but that may have to be reviewed.

Meanwhile, the schedule for rounds five and six of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup has been announced. There is an Irish triple header on Saturday, January 17th with Munster’s crucial trip to Saracens first up, followed by Toulon hosting Ulster, and finally Leinster’s game against Castres Olympique at the RDS.

Televised live

All three will be televised live, as will Connacht’s crucial pool match against the Exeter Chiefs at the Sportsground the next day. In the final round of the Champions Cup, games in the same pool must kick off at the same time. Leinster travel to the Ricoh arena in Coventry on Saturday, January 24th, the same day that Ulster host the Leicester Tigers.

Munster will entertain the Sale Sharks at Thomond Park on Sunday, January 25th, while Connacht make the trip to La Rochelle, 24 hours earlier

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer