Ireland’s Johnny Sexton has hit back at critics who have suggested he is playing through a series of concussions, insisting that he has only ever suffered from two serious head injuries.
Sexton has come under the spotlight this year following a series of knocks and his failure to finish matches. Irish Independent columnist George Hook has been very strong in his criticism of the Irish rugby management and medical team for persisting in picking Sexton, but the number 10 has responded, insisting the IRFU “are leading the way” in player protection in Europe.
When asked if he was pleased that Hook was showing so much concern for his welfare on the Anton Savage Show on Today FM today, Sexton replied: “That’s one way of looking at it.
“A lot has been said over the last few weeks. I tried to put it to bed last week and hopefully that’s the case going forward."
This morning it emerged that over 70 doctors in England have petitioned to have tackling in youth rugby banned to avoid serious and sometimes fatal injuries.
"The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum," the letter from the doctors said.
"These injuries which include fractures, ligamentous tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries and head injuries can have short-term, life-long, and life-ending consequences for children."
But Sexton believes the proposed move is a step too far.
"I don't think you can play rugby without tackling, it's not going to be rugby.
“The IRFU and those who look after us unbelievable well are taking every measure to make sure player welfare is top of the list,” added Sexton on the Anton Savage Show.
“They are leading the way internationally in looking after players with concussion. That’s why it is so frustrating to hear people saying I was playing through concussion. It was more offensive to the doctors and the IRFU than it was to me. It would suggest that they are not doing their job.
"That's where a lot of the issues came from.
“I have been very lucky with injuries throughout my career. I had a few knocks lately but have probably had two concussions in my career that were serious and the rest of the time just bumps and bruises really.”
Ireland are coming off the back of two defeats and a draw from their opening three Six Nations games and Sexton admits that only two wins from their remaining two matches will be good enough.
"We have had three very tough games. We played against the biggest teams in the competition, the three toughest teams and it didn't go to plan with injuries, results-wise, all that.
"After such a disappointing start, the best we can finish now is third and that's what we are going to try and do."