Johnny Sexton’s World Cup ambitions still intact, insists Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde

Missing the end of Leinster's season will be painful for Johnny Sexton. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O’Connor

Johnny Sexton’s World Cup ambitions won’t be affected by the groin surgery that will almost certainly bring his Leinster career to a premature end, says assistant coach Robin McBryde.

Leinster  yesterday confirmed that their skipper is “likely” to have played his last game for his beloved province as a result of the injury he suffered trying to stop Jamie George’s try in Ireland’s Grand Slam- clinching win over England.

With Sexton expected to retire after the tournament in France this October, it seems that his glittering career in blue has come to a close.

Now, the challenge for the province is to beat Ulster this weekend and to go and win a fifth Champions Cup without their talismanic No 10.

“At this stage of his career on the back of a dream come true with regards to a Grand Slam. Yeah, we’re disappointed for Johnny,” assistant coach McBryde said.

“It ’s happened so quickly. It was pretty much a double-edged sword, I’d imagine, that last game against England, but there we are.

“He has been in rugby for long enough, he knows you’ve got to sometimes take the rough with the smooth so it’s just a case of getting better as quickly as possible really with the World Cup looming.

“Hopefully, things will go to plan and he’ll be fit and up and running for that.”

McBryde has been part of three World Cup campaigns with Warren Gatland’s Wales and believes that the pre-season training will overcome any lack of game-time for Sexton.

“You’ve got your World Cup warm-up matches, everybody’s in camp, everybody’s encouraged to have a break at the end of the season. In many ways, it could benefit Johnny that he’s fresh, fit, and ready to go.

“Someone of his experience doesn’t need game-time, I think he’ll get that in training.

“He’s the utmost professional in terms of looking after his own game with the amount of kicking he does, his attention to detail, and I’m sure he’ll get enough reps and he’ll be back before you know it.”

Ross Byrne is expected to start in Sexton’s absence against Ulster on Saturday, while it’s notable that Ireland U-20s star Sam Prendergast has been training with the senior side this week.

“Ross and Harry (Byrne) have been performing well given the Six Nations,” McBryde said.

“You’ve got Sam, who has been with the U-20s as well. There’s depth there and it’s great to see these boys being given an opportunity and taking it.

“We have the utmost confidence in all of them and the way they’ve performed.”

McBryde is expecting a strong challenge from Ulster at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, with a sell-out crowd expected at the Dublin venue.

“It’s a very dangerous game,” he said.

“They’re on top of their game, I would say.

“From a forward point of view, the forward exchanges, they’re solid at scrum, the maul – everyone is fearful of their maul.

“Whoever they select at hooker, Tom Stewart or Rob Herring, both equally good at making very good decisions at the back of that maul.

“They’ve been very effective and they’ve scored against us so they’re hitting their straps at the right time.

“They’ve got momentum behind them and it’s going to be really, really tough. They’ve got inside knowledge on our guys coming from camp as well.”