Donal Lenihan: If Johnny Sexton ‘was my son I would be extremely worried’

Donal Lenihan: If Johnny Sexton ‘was my son I would be extremely worried’

Retired Ireland player and pundit Donal Lenihan has added his voice to those concerned about the long-term health of fly-half Johnny Sexton.

The Irish talisman left the field with a head injury last weekend while playing for Leinster, although coach Leo Cullen has since insisted that the player did not suffer concussion and only remained off the field as a precaution.

Head injuries have been a particular concern for Sexton in his career; he suffered four separate concussions in 2014 and took a twelve week break from playing on medical advice.

In his column in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, Lenihan has suggested that the Ireland backroom team need to consider what is best for Sexton, saying: “Somebody needs to make a very serious call here concerning that young man’s medical wellbeing”.

And, despite Cullen’s remarks, he reiterated that point in a radio interview last night.

"We know it was a bang to the head," Lenihan said on 2fm sports show Game On. “The confusion has arisen because Leo Cullen came out immediately after the game and said he had failed the head injury assessment.

Donal Lenihan has expressed his concern for Johhny Sexton.
Donal Lenihan has expressed his concern for Johhny Sexton.

"Now we're told that he didn't fail it, but that the Leinster medical people weren't 100% satisfied to send him back onto the pitch.

"That, to me, says there was an issue. If he was my son I would be extremely worried about what he's going through at the moment."

"We're all more educated on concussion than we were three or four years ago. The days are gone when you were forced to go out and play if there were issues like that surrounding you.

“But the facts, as they have been relayed since the incident, have only served to confuse the issue."

Lenihan questioned the wisdom of playing Sexton in Ireland’s opening Six Nations game in 12 days time, believing he could be vulnerable to further injury.

"The more you've had them the easier they reoccur and that is the concern with Sexton,” Lenihan said.

"If you're putting him out against Wales in two weeks' time, we know Jamie Roberts, 18 stone of a centre, is going to come haring down, as (Mathieu) Bastareaud has done in the past.

"We know that Johnny Sexton's style of tackling makes him even more open to getting head bangs."

Rugby fans have commended Lenihan for raising the issue of the player’s long-term health. He is not the only one to question whether Sexton should continue to play; outspoken pundit George Hook has also raised the issue both in print and on his Newstalk radio show.

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