Ireland and Leinster Rugby captain Jonathan Sexton may have donned the blue jersey for the last time.
Having sustained an injury to his groin towards the end of Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam clinching victory over England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Fears have grown that Sexton may be unable to return for Leinster’s remaining Heineken Champions Cup and United Rugby Championship fixtures.
The 37-year-old sustained the injury whilst trying to tackle England Hooker, Jamie George. Having just broken Ronan O’Gara’s long-standing Six Nations points-scoring record, the damage was a slight blemish on an otherwise exceptional afternoon for Sexton.
Whilst Sexton’s loss is a blow for Leinster, Irish Rugby fans will be hoping he is fully recovered in time for the Rugby World Cup in France.
Initially, Sexton said he had hoped to return in a matter of weeks. However, Leinster Head Coach Leo Cullen was less certain of a return date, saying: “I don’t know is the honest answer. I’m not expecting anything. I’m hopeful, but I’m not sure, unfortunately. He is going to see a specialist.”
Reports now suggest Sexton could be out for up to three months, which would see him miss all of Leinster’s remaining fixtures.
Since making his debut for Leinster in 2006, Sexton has gone on to make 189 appearances for the province scoring 1644 points. During this run he has played a key role in all of Leinster’s four Heineken Champions Cup titles whilst also winning Six URC (formerly Celtic league, Pro 12, Pro 14) titles and one European Challenge Cup.
Speaking about Leinster’s chances without Sexton, Cullen said he was confident in the squad’s depth and ability to challenge for both titles on off.
More points than anyone else 👑
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 23, 2023
“There are trophies on the line, players want to be involved in that,” he said. “They’re itching for the opportunity themselves; they want to be the person driving the bus, so to speak.”
“They’re ready for it, whatever happens, the work that’s gone in behind the scenes with players and coaches, we’re always getting ready for that eventuality.”
“One person goes down, someone else is ready to step in. We don’t get bogged down by what we don’t have, we just worry about what we do have, and we have a great group there.”
Speaking on the quality that the South African sides have brought to the URC. Cullen said his side was relishing the chance to face some of the best players in the world.
“We’re delighted to see the Stormers sending all of their Springbok guys up here, they’re getting ready for a Champions Cup weekend next week as well,”
“It’s an amazing test for us, we’ve sat in these press conferences over the last few years, talking about the quality of the competition, and now you’re like, ‘woosh’, you see a team of Springboks arriving at the RDS for a round 16 game of the URC, it’s an amazing test for our players and us, as a coaching team, we’re excited to see how our guys go as a team.
“They won’t make it easy, I heard John Dobson’s stuff this week. They’re coming with a mentality where they want to finish as high a seeding as possible.
“They’re sniffing an opportunity and the challenge for our guys is how they deal with the challenge across lots of different facets: set-piece, breakdown, kicking game, aggressive line-speed. The speed they have, etc. It’s a great test.”