Johnny Sexton to miss start of Ireland’s 2015 Six Nations campaign
Ireland out-half ordered to take 12 weeks off by French medics after concussive episode against Australia last month
Ireland talisman Johnny Sexton is set to miss the start of their Six Nations title defence after being sidelined for 12 weeks.
The 29-year-old Racing Metro outside-half has not played since suffering a concussive episode in the 77th minute against Australia in last month’s Guinness Series.
French sports newspaper L’Equipe reported that the Ligue Nationale de Rugby medical committee had taken the precautionary measure to ban Sexton from playing until 14 February, the date set for Ireland’s home clash with France on the second weekend of the competition.
He has had a series of head knocks. I think he might have had two on the one day against Australia. As a result of these, and the new regulations on concussion from World Rugby, he’s out of action for the next three months.
That rules him out of Ireland’s opening Six Nations title defence opener against Italy on 7 February.
The head knock at the Aviva Stadium was Sexton’s fourth concussive episode in 12 months, leading Parisian neurologist Dr Jean-François Cherman to order an enforced spell on the sidelines from contact work.
Racing Metro coach Laurent Labit told a news conference ahead of their Top 14 clash with La Rochelle this weekend that Sexton will not play until he’s 100 per cent ready, and former Ireland international Ronan O’Gara, now an assistant coach at Racing, confirmed the news.
“Johnny didn’t get the news that he or the staff here were hoping for,” O’Gara said.
“He has had a series of head knocks. I think he might have had two on the one day against Australia.
“As a result of these, and the new regulations on concussion from World Rugby, he’s out of action for the next three months.”
It leaves Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt with the dilemma of whether or not to throw Sexton, who was shortlisted for World Rugby’s Player of the Year award this year, straight back into the bruising environment of Test rugby after more than 12 weeks without a competitive match.
Leinster’s Ian Madigan was Sexton’s understudy on the summer tour to Argentina, and has been influential for the reigning Guinness PRO12 champions so far this campaign, but he has been deployed at inside-centre by the province with New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth occupying the 10 jersey.
The obvious choice may be Ulster’s Paddy Jackson, who started for Ireland two seasons ago and was back-up for this year’s Six Nations, but he is sharing outside-half duties with Ian Humphreys and has started just five matches in the PRO12 this season.
Ian Keatley has been a regular at outside-half for Munster, but like his rivals to succeed Sexton he has limited international experience.
The upside for Ireland is that Sexton’s enforced absence is merely precautionary rather than anything too serious.
He should still be able to maintain his physical fitness, but is unlikely to be match sharp on his return.