Sunday 22 October 2017

Anxious wait for Joe Schmidt as Johnny Sexton and Marty Moore Six Nations doubts

Johnny Sexton faces a wait to see if the concussion he suffered in Leinster’s defeat yesterday has implications for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Johnny Sexton faces a wait to see if the concussion he suffered in Leinster’s defeat yesterday has implications for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ulster's fate in the Champions Cup won't be settled until this afternoon when the final games on the schedule get underway in Pools 2 and 4, and Johnny Sexton faces a wait of his own to see if the concussion he suffered in Leinster's defeat yesterday has implications for Ireland's Six Nations campaign.

Marty Moore is also a dout after injuring a shoulder in the same game.

The outhalf failed a Head Injury Assessment after a collision with former team-mate Brendan Macken in the first half of Leinster's record defeat by Wasps - the 51-10 loss overtaking the 47-3 hammering they suffered in Toulouse in 2002.

Given Sexton's history of concussion this will be a top priority now for Joe Schmidt ahead of the Championship opener against Wales in a fortnight. He suffered four concussions in 2014 and was stood down, under the concussion protocol in France, in December of that year.

He was forced to take a 12-week break from the game, returning to the Championship, coincidentally against France. Since then he has had a clean bill of health, so it remains to be seen how he fares this week on the return to play protocols.

The good news for Schmidt was that Robbie Henshaw made a successful return from hand surgery to claim one of Connacht's eight tries as they took five points from their tie against Enisei-STM in the Sportsground. The result guarantees them a place in the last eight of the Challenge Cup - away to Bernard Jackman's Grenoble - but the frustrating defeat suffered in Brive last weekend cost them a home draw.

Ulster, meanwhile, will tune into this afternoon's ties hoping they can maintain their overnight position of being in the last qualifier's slot. They can still be overtaken by any one of Stade Francais, who are at home to Leicester Tigers, Ospreys (away to Exeter) or Clermont, who take on Bordeaux Begles in Stade Marcel Michelin.

They need at least two of those results to go their way to make it to the last eight: Stade to do no more than draw; and either Ospreys or Clermont to lose. If not, it will be the first time since 1998 that Ireland would have no representative in the knock out stages of Europe's premier competition.

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