Gatland warns Sexton might not make Lions tour if he misses games
Warren Gatland has admitted that Johnny Sexton is under pressure to prove his fitness before next summer's Lions tour.
Sexton's latest hamstring issue led to Joe Schmidt saying that the IRFU would consider giving the star out-half time out of the game to allow his body to fully recover.
Gatland, who will lead the Lions in New Zealand, insisted that the coming months and in particular, the Six Nations, would be crucial in deciding whether Sexton would have a major role to play in what would be his second tour.
"Johnny hasn't played a lot of rugby recently," Gatland said. "You want him to get through the Six Nations. It's making sure I do my job properly. You look at the quality of someone like Johnny Sexton and the experience he's had.
"The conversation with Johnny might be like: 'We might take you on tour. There's been a little bit of concern about your durability - if you do pick up a knock or an injury and you're out for a couple of weeks, the quality of the squad is that, someone else could step into your shoes, and when you come back.
"Normally when you come back in an Irish situation, it doesn't matter how long you've been out, you go straight back into the team as No 1.
"If you come into a Lions situation, if someone is playing well, you might not be going back into that starting side as a 10, you might be sitting on the bench or not involved. How are you going to be able to handle that? Are you going to be prepared for that? What's your attitude around the team and squad going to be like?'
"If I'm doing my job properly, I've had that conversation with him and potentially he's got his head right and he's prepared for that potential eventuality, if it does happen.
"The Lions can be a different sort of animal or beast when you have the quality of players to choose from.
"From his point of view, the next few months and Six Nations are important.
"A couple of other players have done alright for Ireland - Paddy Jackson, and the young boy (Joey) Carbery looks alright for the future as well.
"I think Johnny probably knows he's under a little bit of pressure to be fit and perform too."
As expected, Gatland confirmed that Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell would be part of his backroom team, alongside Rob Howley (attack) and Steve Borthwick (forwards).
Gatland will also look to add a second attack coach and scrum guru with Ireland's Greg Feek in contention.