Sunday 22 September 2019

Leinster and Ireland face nervous wait over O'Brien and Sexton

Gatland: "You put safety and players’ health first; they go through the protocols and if they pass, they pass.” Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster and Ireland have been left counting the cost of a bruising Lions tour as they fret on injuries suffered by Sean O'Brien and Johnny Sexton in Saturday's final-Test draw.

Warren Gatland confirmed that both players are due to have scans today after O'Brien damaged his shoulder and Sexton hurt his ankle.

Both players attempted to play on after picking up the issues late in the first half; the flanker made it to half-time before being replaced by CJ Stander while the out-half continued until the 73rd minute - he also underwent and passed a Head Injury Assessment (HIA).

Already without Robbie Henshaw for the start of next season as a result of the serious chest injury he suffered earlier in the tour, it has been a costly experience for Leinster, whose season kicks off in eight weeks' time.

The processes around HIAs were once again in the spotlight after Saturday's bruising encounter, in particular the re-introduction of Alun-Wyn Jones for Sam Warburton, who needed his head checked.

Jones had earlier been taken off in the incident that led to Jerome Kaino being sin-binned for a high hit. Television footage suggested the player was knocked out, but the Lions insist he never lost consciousness and passed his test with an independent doctor in the dressing-room before being called upon to replace the skipper.

"He's fine, he passed the HIA," Warren Gatland said. "We made sure. Anything that's a knock to head, we take people off just as a precaution. There was no issue with both of them in terms of losing consciousness.

"We all know what a big issue it is, you put safety and players' health first; they go through the protocols and if they pass, they pass."

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The topic has been top of the agenda throughout this tour. The All Blacks have stood down two players who have passed all the protocols as a precaution.

Speaking last week, Lions head of medical Dr Eanna Falvey outlined the procedure the tourists used.

"All HIA management is a collaborative event now," he said.

"We've really raised the stakes on how we do this considerably. For all our games, one of the medical team sits in the coaches' box as a 'spotter' and he has a computerised system where he's got the broadcast and he can rewind that.

"It's a difficult situation because people get bangs on the head all the time playing sport and you can get a bang in the head without getting a concussion.

"But we have to make sure we do the right thing by somebody so when they do get a bang on the head like that, the safe thing to do is remove them and use the tools that we have."

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