Tuesday 20 August 2019

George Hook 'regrets' his reaction to Sexton's comments

George Hook and Johnny Sexton
George Hook and Johnny Sexton

Rugby pundit George Hook has said he regrets his reaction to Ireland out half Jonathan Sexton's comments.

Irish Independent columnist Hook, who also presents the Right Hook on Newstalk FM, has frequently expressed the opinion that Sexton should consider retiring from rugby following a series of head injuries over the last number of years.

During an appearance on tonight’s Late Late Show, Hook said: "Johnny in an interview said when I talk about brain damage in rugby I don't believe what I say and I say it to sell papers.

"I absolutely regret what I did.

"There's a situation when you're angry, when you're hurt and when you're offended you should really count up to 10, but I didn't get past one.

"I struck out because I felt it was against everything I hold dear.

"Let me say one thing, there are 200 people here in the audience, there are half a million people watching.

"If I tell lies about brain damage in the Rugby Union that may lead to dementia, Alzheimer's, suicide, drug abuse, domestic violence, then I am a charlatan.

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"And if I am a charlatan, I should be drummed off the national airwaves and the national newspapers."

Mr Hook grew emotional as he continued: "If I stay silent who speaks for Sarah Chester and Lily Partridge, the two women who died in the last 12 months after playing rugby.

"Who speaks for Ben Robinson who died on the rugby field in Carrickfergus in front of his mother...

"This is the most important thing I have ever done in my life and I won't be silenced."

He initially refused to apologise but continued: "If I meet Johnny I'll apologise to him.... I'll apologise to you to him."

Mr Hook did not say definitively that he would continue or drop his case against Johnny Sexton, but said: "I must defend my integrity. The courts have successfully defended me on two out of four occasions, I have to protect my reputation."

Leinster star Johnny Sexton is yet to complete a full 80 minutes in the tournament to date due to a variety of injuries sustained and, prior to Ireland’s most recent match away to England, their head coach, Eddie Jones, was heavily criticised for saying that Sexton’s parents should be worried about him.

Sexton was stood down for 12 weeks in late 2014 having sustained four head injuries in the calendar year and prior to the start of this year's Six Nations campaign, he stated that the playmaker should consider retirement following a head collision in action for Leinster against Toulon in the Champions Cup.

"The latest brain injury could be career-defining for Ireland's No 10 and will not easily be overlooked by him passing 'the protocols'," wrote Hook in his Irish Independent column.

"What price is the 30-year-old prepared to put on his future health? How many more blows to the head is he prepared to take in the name of professional sport?

"Maybe it's time he gave serious consideration to cashing in his insurance policy and leaving rugby with his faculties still intact."

After Sexton was replaced in the Six Nations opener against Wales, he once again called into question the 30-year-old's welfare.

"I will be so angry if Sexton plays (against England). He should go away and rest. Johnny Sexton should talk to his wife and parents," he told Independent.ie's Six Nations panel discussion.

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