Thursday 22 March 2018

Schmidt warns 'flat' Sexton: place at risk

Out-half may miss Samoa clash if forced to play 14th game of season for Racing

Jonathan Sexton
Jonathan Sexton
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JOHNNY SEXTON last night flew back to Paris with Joe Schmidt warning that he could miss next week's clash with Samoa if he plays for Racing Metro tomorrow.

The Ireland coach is concerned about his out-half's condition after his club asked him to report for duty for what would be his 14th match in 13 weeks if he is selected to face Biarritz.

Schmidt has been in contact with Racing assistant coach Ronan O'Gara, but is still in the dark about whether the out-half will be named in the Parisians' team, which will be announced today.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Sexton's back-up players in Paris, Jonathan Wisniewski and Benjamin Dambielle, are struggling for fitness.

Schmidt admitted that Sexton was "flat" when he arrived from France this week and added that Ian Madigan and Paddy Jackson are on standby to start if the former Leinster out-half is not 100pc next week.

The New Zealander warned Sexton and the assorted walking wounded in the Ireland squad that availability for Tuesday's training session marked the cut-off point for selection for the Samoa clash.

"Having played 13 games in 12 weeks, you know a player will start to get a bit of fatigue," Schmidt said yesterday.

"You just become a little bit more vulnerable, a little less likely to avoid injury. Those are risks we want to manage.

"He was pretty tired at the start of the week to be honest and he was pretty flat. I know Johnny pretty well at this stage.

"He's a pretty buoyant character, and a pretty bossy character, in a really good sense, and he was definitely a bit flat at the start of the week."

"He's bouncing back now but he is also taking a flight back to Paris this evening. That's unfortunately the way it is. If Johnny is run down next week and he does play at the weekend against Biarritz, it's a great opportunity for Paddy or Ian to step up and try and make their mark," added the Ireland head coach, who will also have to plan without the former Leinster out-half for today's training session.

"I'd definitely give (Sexton) a rest on Monday. Tuesday is the cut-off really. If somebody is not fully fit to train Tuesday, we get small enough windows as a group already, it would be hard to include somebody post-Tuesday because we'd have one session on Thursday and a very light captain's run (on Friday) and then it's match day on Saturday."

Schmidt was more upbeat on Brian O'Driscoll who he says has looked "sharp" in training, while Rory Best returned yesterday and Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy are due to train on Monday.

Ireland's major injury worry remains Paul O'Connell who will be "cutting it fine" to be available.

The Munster man is favourite to be named captain for the November Tests and Schmidt may delay his decision on who will lead Ireland out against the Samoans until as late as Thursday's team announcement.

Irish Independent

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