Sexton left to cool off for rest of the year

Jonathan Sexton has been annoyed with himself this week.

Losing to Clermont was bad enough but then he went and had a few choice words with Nathan Hines before they all departed the scene. The pair have kept in touch since the Scottish Aussie left Dublin for France but Sexton wasn’t happy with “some of the dirty stuff” that he felt the lock brought to the table.

Hines wasn’t doing anything he hadn’t done week in, week out for Leinster, but the fact he would carry on regardless against his old team-mates touched a nerve and the Irish out-half let his emotions get the better of him and emptied his frustrations.

As it turned out, it would be his last act on the pitch in 2012. Leinster will butt heads with Ulster in Ravenhill tonight and welcome Connacht to the RDS next week for what could be a testy affair after the whole Mike McCarthy transfer brouhaha — but Sexton will be watching it all unfold from a seat in the stand.

He isn’t injured, just rested. Stood down for the Christmas campaign by order of Declan Kidney and the IRFU, whose player management scheme continues to draw envious glances from abroad but only a grudging acceptance from those internationally contracted employees it seeks to protect.

They all know the drill by now but that doesn’t make it any easier.

“I know it’s for our sake at the end of the day. I said this to Declan, it can get a bit complicated if I pick up a niggle in two weeks’ time and you have a game off or out for a couple of games and then you haven’t played for four to six games. That happened two seasons ago, I was rested for the first two, then picked up a niggle and missed the first six games of the season.

“That’s where it can be frustrating, especially for me, because I always start playing better when I’ve had a run of games. You are starting to find your best form and then you have a break again. I’ll enjoy the Christmas time, do the training and prepare for 2013, which is going to be a massive year.”

That it is and Kidney will not be the only coach hoping to profit from Sexton‘s mid-season siesta. With Rhys Priestland succumbing to long-term injury — after a lengthy bout of poor form — and few other 10s putting up their hands, Warren Gatland would wrap Sexton in cotton wool between now and June’s Lions tour to Hong Kong and Australia if he could.

Owen Farrell, Toby Flood, Jonny Wilkinson and James Hook all have their supporters but far more detractors for various reasons and, if Sexton succumbs to injury, the Lions will be in serious trouble. He knows as much but he is far too polite to admit it.

“It’s an ambition to go. In pre-season when you’re training hard, it’s always in my head, it’s good at that time of the year. When you start playing games, at the start of the season, I was probably thinking about it too much but now I’m just concentrating on Leinster and for Ireland and the Six nations.

“There’s a lot of hype out there about it. I know it’s a big deal but I try and stay away from it and not think about it. I have an ambition to go on it. Hopefully the other stuff will look after itself, I have got to try to put it out of mind as much as I can.”

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox