Paris - Ireland warhorse Johnny Sexton
insists he is fit for his country's Six Nations clash against France on
Saturday, but he must overcome worries about his future after a series of head
A French brain specialist who forced Sexton
onto the sidelines for three months has backed the Irish fly-half's claims to
be safe to play.
But Jean-Francois Chermann also said he had once warned him to
avoid repeat concussions or risk his career.
The 30-year-old Sexton, one of the most
influential figures in Ireland's double Six Nations triumphs, saved his side
last weekend with a penalty kick that rescued a 16-16 draw against Wales.
However, he was clearly in pain when he
left the field with a shoulder injury in the Dublin clash.
In naming Sexton for the team to play in
Paris on Saturday, coach Joe Schmidt said that the fly-half is "pretty
"I'm okay now, I just got a bang on
top of the head and it just compressed my neck a little bit," said Sexton,
who kicked 11 points against Wales.
"I've turned around pretty quick. But
I'm fit to go and really looking forward to it."
Sexton, whose high tackling style makes him
vulnerable to head shocks, suffered his latest big scare just before the Six
Nations started when playing for Leinster against Wasps.
As he was being treated, Wasps attacked and
Sexton leaped up to help his defence. He later left the field though.
Leinster said at first it was a suspected
concussion case and then changed their minds.
The events have heightened fears about the
Sexton was forced to miss three months of
rugby in late 2014 and early 2015 after suffering four concussions in a year
playing for Racing 92 in France and for Ireland.
Irish Independent rugby commentator George
Hook said last week that Sexton should consider quitting after the latest blow.
"Sexton's history in this area is
deeply worrying for everybody concerned about the well-being of this young
man," Hook wrote.
"What price is the 30-year-old
prepared to put on his future health? How many more blows to the head is he
prepared to take in the name of professional sport?
"Maybe it's time he gave serious
consideration to cashing in his insurance policy and leaving rugby with his
faculties still intact."
Chermann, a French neurologist who
specialises in sporting injuries, said that Sexton should be more worried about
suffering concussions in quick succession than the number of blows to the head.
Chermann signed Sexton off for three months
in late 2014.
"After this period of rest and gradual
return, everything went well and he did not have a new concession,"
"At the time, I told him we should be
more worried if he had a concussion in the three months after his return and he
should then consider stop playing rugby."
The damage is more likely to last a long
time if the two blows are suffered shortly after each other, according to the
Sexton's playing style puts him at risk.
Grenoble's Irish coach Bernard Jackman said that opposing teams often target
Ireland's number 10 because of their defensive style trying to get the ball out
to the wings.
Sexton left the key World Cup clash against
France last November after just 28 minutes.
Last weekend, Welsh ironmen Jamie Roberts
and Toby Faletau singled out Sexton.
Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll said Sexton
should change his tackling style so he does not go in head first.
He could also be given a wider defensive
position. But Jackman said Sexton is "too proud" for such a move.
"He is not the kind of player to hide.
He wants to be a leader in defence, showing the example," Jackman said.