Sunday 17 December 2017

Sexton gets nod for Lions opener

Jonathan Sexton underwent the standard protocol procedure for concussion after playing for Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton underwent the standard protocol procedure for concussion after playing for Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Johnny Sexton has brushed off his recent Head Injury Assessment to earn the out-half spot in the opening Lions selection of the tour to New Zealand alongside fellow Irishmen Rory Best and Iain Henderson.

Warren Gatland revealed that the No 10 had to undergo the concussion protocols following Leinster's Guinness PRO12 defeat to Scarlets a fortnight ago and Sexton will be keen to lay down a marker against the Provincial Barbarians as he seeks to retain his starting berth in red for the Test series.

"There is some real experience in Rory Best and Jonathan Sexton there and they have a responsibility to lift some of the younger players to help get us off to a winning start," said Gatland.

"It's a great opportunity for the starting 15 and 23 to lay down a marker and get the team off to a good start.

"A lot of these players were together in our first week in Wales so combinations have worked together for a couple of weeks."

Irish captain Best and Henderson have lain idle since Ulster's disappointing campaign ended last month. Best is favourite to start the test series while Henderson's utility value is admired.

Jared Payne and Tadhg Furlong are on the bench.

Lions (v Provincial Barbarians) - Stuart Hogg; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Te'o, Tommy Seymour; Johnny Sexton, Greig Laidlaw; Joe Marler, Rory Best, Kyle Sinckler; Alun Wyn Jones, Iain Henderson; Ross Moriarty, Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau.

Reps: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Tadhg Furlong, George Kruis, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, Owen Farrell, Jared Payne.

Irish Independent

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