Saturday 24 March 2018

'Calls for Johnny Sexton to consider retirement are a disappointment' - Joe Schmidt

Johnny Sexton after suffering a head injury with Ireland
Johnny Sexton after suffering a head injury with Ireland

Nick Purewal

Joe Schmidt has declared Johnny Sexton fully fit to start Ireland's RBS 6 Nations campaign after the fly-half's latest concussion scare.

Sexton was withdrawn from Leinster's 51-10 Champions Cup defeat to Wasps, but passed initial pitch-side Head Injury Assessment (HIA) and has since completed further tests to return to training.

Read more: George Hook: Johnny Sexton should think about quitting before it's too late

Ireland head coach Schmidt lamented suggestions his frontline playmaker should consider quitting the sport to preserve his long-term health.

Schmidt branded those calls "a disappointment", frustrated that observers outside the Ireland camp have questioned expert medical opinion.

"Johnny trained really well yesterday, he's fully fit and ready to go, he's passed his three," said Schmidt.

"So that's the protocol.

"It was this time last year that the problem really arose and he had the break.

"Since that time he hasn't really had too many problems.

"So as far as we're concerned and as far as Johnny's concerned he's very keen to be ready to go in 11 days' time.

"He trained really well yesterday. I think he's good to go."

Outspoken columnist and former Ireland international George Hook has led calls for Sexton to consider quitting the sport over frequent head injuries.

Sexton was stood down for 12 weeks by French club Racing for suffering four concussions inside 12 months.

Despite Sexton's latest head injury concern, Ireland and Leinster have insisted the 30-year-old did not suffer a concussion against Wasps, and is now free to play.

"All we can do is go on the medical opinion, and he had two of the best guys that are around, that made some decisions for him last year and have followed up since then," said Schmidt.

"When they give him the all-clear we've got a lot of trust in them.

"I have a number of dealings with family with medical practitioners that we have huge trust n, and you know they are the experts.

"If there are people who question that, again it's always a disappointment, but also a reality.

"Because no one's going to have the same opinion necessarily, but what you try to do is get those that are best-qualified to make the decision, therefore not to put somebody at risk."

Praising Leinster for withdrawing Sexton as a precaution in the weekend's heavy defeat at Wasps, Schmidt said Ireland take head injuries extremely seriously.

"I'm always concerned," said Schmidt, when asked about concussion and its symptoms.

"We treat head injuries with the respect they need and that's why he didn't go back onto the pitch on the weekend, and I certainly respect that decision.

"It wasn't a game that was going to be significant in qualification and therefore they identified that some important games were coming up for Johnny.

"That's fallen to our advantage so he should be fully fit to go."

Read more: 'Joe Schmidt can have the Lions job if he wants' - Wales boss Warren Gatland

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