Thursday 29 September 2016

'Jumping on the bandwagon' - Johnny Sexton dismisses Eddie Jones' comments regarding health concerns

Published 25/02/2016 | 13:55

Johnny Sexton has brushed off comments made by Eddie Jones surrounding his long-term health, claiming the England coach is "trying to jump on the bandwagon".

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Jones claimed Sexton's parents must harbour concerns about his well-being after his latest fitness scare in Ireland's 10-9 defeat to France, branded a "whiplash injury" by Joe Schmidt.

The Ireland out-half was forced to leave the field of play at the Stade de France and there were immediate fears for the Leinster star after a succession of head injuries last year which resulted in the player taking time out to recover.

"Sexton is an interesting one, they've talked about him having whiplash injury which is not a great thing to talk about," said Jones, after confirming Maro Itoje will replace the injured Joe Launchbury to make his full debut for England on Saturday.

"I'm sure his mother and father would be worried about that. Hopefully, the lad's all right on Saturday to play."

Speaking to TV3's Sinead Kissane at Carton House today, the 30-year-old admitted that while he didn't know the context of the comments, he believes the Australian is jumping on board what is becoming one of the major talking points in the sport.

"He's probably just trying to jump on the bandwagon about head injuries. That's the hot topic at the moment," he said.

"I don't know what context it was said in so I can't really comment too much on it."

Earlier Joe Schmidt refused to be drawn into the debate when he was asked on his thoughts on Jones' statement.

"If we're distracted by that, we're wasting energy. It's outside. People within their rights to make observations outside, but we know how things are inside," he told reporters.

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Last month Sexton responded to calls to consider retirement in light of recurring head injuries by stating that he receives the best medical attention and would not be swayed by "uneducated" opinions.

"We see the best neurologists and they tell us if we're going to play or not based on tests done by the best specialists," he said

"People asking was I okay, if I was retiring, if I had really bad issues and that's all from a person who's totally uneducated in the area speaking their mind about something they don't really know about."

Meanwhile Schmidt will hand Ireland debuts to Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier and Ulster's Stuart McCloskey as he makes five changes for Saturday's eagerly awaited clash.

Injuries to Jared Payne and Sean O'Brien has forced Schmidt's hand somewhat, but the Kiwi has decided to plump for the inexperienced duo from the start, with uncapped Ultan Dillane named on the bench as the reigning champions go in search of their first win of the campaign.

Van der Flier has seen off competition from Tommy O’Donnell for the No 7 shirt left vacant by O’Brien and the 22-year-old Wesley College and UCD product has been rewarded for outstanding form this season at provincial level.

The main talking point all week was the availability of Jared Payne, who didn’t train on Tuesday as a result of a hamstring injury, and has failed to prove his fitness in time for Saturday.

Robbie Henshaw has been handed the 13 jersey, with McCloskey starting at inside centre. Keith Earls comes in on the left wing in place of the injured Dave Kearney, while Donnacha Ryan steps in for concussion victim Mike McCarthy in the second-row.

Fit-again Mike Ross returns at tighthead prop, with Nathan White dropping to the bench, while Schmidt has opted to keep Cian Healy in reserve as Jack McGrath continues at loosehead alongside captain Rory Best.

Ireland team to face England: R Kearney; A Trimble, R Henshaw, S McCloskey K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), M Ross; D Toner, D Ryan; CJ Stander, J Van der Flier, J Heaslip.

Reps: Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Simon Zebo

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