United Rugby Championship: Leinster wait on head assessment for veteran Johnny Sexton

URC: Jonathan Sexton captains Leinster, Ulster welcome Jacob Stockdale and Robert Balcoune back, Liam Williams returns for Cardiff Credit: Alamy
URC: Jonathan Sexton captains Leinster, Ulster welcome Jacob Stockdale and Robert Balcoune back, Liam Williams returns for Cardiff Credit: Alamy

Leinster are sweating on an assessment of veteran Johnny Sexton after the fly-half was forced off the field in his side’s 41-12 win over rivals Connacht.

Sexton clashed with Connacht back-row Jarrad Butler in the second half, hitting his cheekbone in the contact and was subsequently removed moments later in the 64th minute.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted that Sexton did take some serious contact to the head and that the situation will be assessed as soon as possible.

Having just moved into a World Cup year, the fitness of the influential Sexton is important for the world’s top-ranked side Ireland, who are looking to break their theme of peaking between showpiece events.

“Obviously he has taken a fair old whack on his cheek. We’ll see how he is. We’ll get it assessed pretty quickly, we should know by tomorrow the extent of it,” Cullen said after the game.

Despite being injured in the process, Sexton’s challenge on Butler appeared dangerous, and he was lucky to escape without further punishment.

Further clarity is needed

Cullen called on World Rugby to find a way to differentiate between situations of head contact and provide more clarity in the game.

“There’s a bit of muddiness, isn’t there, at the moment in the game,” he said. “Probably just needs something clear coming down from World Rugby on some of these contacts. They’re not all the same now, so it’s hard to be definitive.

“It’s almost getting to the point now with a ball carrier, you can almost see a tackler that’s high and it’s almost like you can head straight for them. All of the onus is on the defending player. They’re tricky ones. It needs probably a clearer message than we’re probably getting at the moment, I think.”

The win for Cullen’s side was made to look much more flattering by three late tries extending the scoreline. However, the coach admitted there was some frustration amongst the players who sometimes struggled to put pressure on Connacht.

“In the dressing room there we’ve a little bit of frustration because particularly at half-time we were very frustrated. We misfired a good few line-outs, which means we don’t really build any sustained pressure on Connacht,” Cullen said.

“It took us a long while to break them down properly. We just played in fits and starts really. Probably the best bit is the last period of the game, but we had sort of built a bit of a lead by that point.”

Need to turn the corner

Meanwhile, this season in the United Rugby Championship has not gone how Connacht would have planned, as the Irish outfit sit 13th on the table after 11 games.

Andy Friend’s side needs to find a string of form and face a difficult challenge next up against the Springbok-laden Sharks, who have turned the corner under their director of rugby Neil Powell and are starting to look very dangerous.

“It is season-defining, we have to win that. No doubt about that. That’s pretty much our URC season. We’ve got to get a win there,” Friend said.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position now where pretty much every game from here, we’ve got to be picking up points. Ideally four or five points.”

READ MORE: United Rugby Championship: Five takeaways from the South African derbies including Hacjivah Dayimani knocking on the Springbok door

The article United Rugby Championship: Leinster wait on head assessment for veteran Johnny Sexton appeared first on Planetrugby.com.