Johnny Sexton on La Rochelle regret, disturbing concussion and World Cup study
Johnny Sexton regrets his decision not to play for Leinster in their Champions Cup semi-final loss to La Rochelle.
The Blues skipper revealed that after being removed from his post after suffering a concussion against the Exeter Chiefs in the previous round, he had the opportunity to face Ronan O’Gara’s side in the last four games in May.
Sexton, after meeting with a consultant, decided not to play in order to be absolutely right for a possible European final and then a Lions tour of South Africa.
In the end, nothing happened for the Dubliner as La Rochelle moved on to decider and Warren Gatland snubbed him for selection.
“It was a good lesson for me not to plan too far,” said the 36-year-old.
“After the Exeter game I went to see a guy in England and did a lot of tests after a second concussion.
“He decided it was better not to play this semi-final. Technically, I was in good shape and had gone through all the comebacks (protocols), but he felt that I had to give myself a little more. time to recover.
“He asked me what was on the horizon and we talked about the European Cup final if we had won the semi-finals, and the Lions tour, were obviously the two big things to the end of the year.
“We decided to skip the semifinals in order to be fit for the final and play in the Lions tour. So it’s a good lesson for anyone not to plan too far ahead.
“It was obviously a regret because if I had regained my time I would go play in the semi-finals. But listen, I don’t now.
“It was the decision I made to make sure I was right anyway, so it was probably the right decision anyway. That’s what happened.”
Sexton revealed on Wednesday that the plan to omit Cian Healy, Keith Earls and himself from the Irish summer series had been worked out after the Six Nations.
“Then it was a balancing act between the guys pushing for the Irish squad for the sake of playing a league game against the Dragons or a league game against Glasgow, we just thought it was better to keep going. to train hard and make sure the body was in a good position for this year, ”he said.
“That’s what happened and I’m not making it up. It’s the truth.”
Sexton insists he’s in great shape and has been involved in all of Leinster’s preseason training so far, including full contact work.
“I did everything,” he said. “I did it at the end of last season as well.
“There is no worry around that side of things – and there was none at the time.
“As you know, with the protocols in place, if you have three concussions in a short period of time, you’re suspended for a while, so there was that thinking process as well.
“I had one against Wales. I had another, obviously it was a good couple of weeks later but it was still a second so this is a case where they were also trying to get out of it. take care of me in the best possible way.
“Leinster was also brilliant with other guys like Caelan Doris and James Ryan behind the scenes, it wouldn’t have had the same level of publicity. They were excellent.”
Sexton says he’s skeptical of a study on a URC team that showed a decline in players’ cognitive function and blood flow to the brain from the start to the end of a season.
The University of South Wales study did not show concussions, but noted that further investigation was needed.
Sexton, who was constantly asked about his own concussions, commented: “If a study concludes that it needs more investigation, I wouldn’t pay it much attention.
“I have had cognitive tests since I was 18/19/20, I did cognitive tests this week, before the start of the season, and I don’t think there is any drop in my results.
“Maybe they were doing different tests, I’m not sure it’s hard to comment on a study you know very little about. I can only say for myself that I didn’t have any. problem, that’s all I can say. “
Besides his role as captain of Leinster and Ireland, Sexton is the chairman of the International Rugby Players’ Council.
In general, he believes, World Rugby takes the right measures to protect players.
“I think they are making great progress,” he said. “Leinster and Ireland have been at the forefront of making sure we’re proactive, we’re doing more and more all the time.
“I think even now World Rugby is doing more and more to make sure they’re doing everything right.
“Look, I can only praise Leinster and Ireland in this regard. You saw how the players were treated last year when they had a few hits. can really say about it.
“I can only say good things about it. You’ve read about other players who have complained against World Rugby, I haven’t witnessed it myself so I can’t speak to it.”
The idea of retiring at the end of this season has entered Johnny Sexton’s head – but whatever happens, he wants to end on a high.
Sexton insists those thoughts have been put to the back of his mind as he looks to enjoy playing at the moment, and although this season could be his last, he is eyeing a third World Cup with France 2023 in the season. ‘horizon.
“Well my motivation, I don’t think, is that different,” said the No.10 veteran.
“I had a few … obviously a big setback last year with the non-selection and it gave me a little boost, not that I needed it, I felt I was still motivated to succeed with Leinster and Ireland and I always want to win more.
“When you get to the end, I think the last two years you will remember more than the previous years, so I want, whether it’s this year or next year, whether it’s the World Cup, I want finish the one top.
“I want to finish in the best possible way and that’s winning things and playing well.
“So that’s my motivation and I don’t think I’ve changed much. You should ask my teammates. They saw me being competitive in training, I hope, and the fire is still there.
“And I hope we see that at the start of the season and that I can stay in shape and play well.”
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