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'Honestly, I thought it stank on so many grounds. I will leave it at that'

Ireland coach Andy Farrell delivered an angry response to the French neurologist who publicly spoke about Johnny Sexton’s concussion history this week.

Sexton suffered a head injury last week.
Sexton suffered a head injury last week.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated Feb 12th 2021, 3:20 PM

ANDY FARRELL HAS rebuked the French neurologist whose comments about Johnny Sexton’s concussion history have dominated the build-up to this week’s Six Nations tie against France.

Dr. Jean-Francois Chermann, the specialist who recommended Sexton’s 12-week break from the game in 2014, suggested on radio station RMC that Sexton has suffered 30 concussions in his career. He has subsequently rowed back on those comments.

Sexton was quick to respond, saying he was ‘saddened and shocked’ by the inaccuracy of the comments. Now Farrell has weighed in.

“Honestly,” I thought it stank on so many grounds,” said the Ireland head coach this morning. “I will leave it at that.”

Ordinarily, the Ireland head coach steers clear of controversy. That he was prepared to speak so strongly about the issue, so close to Sunday’s game, is a reflection of his anger.

ireland-six-nations-preview-file-photo Farrell (left) with Sexton. Source: PA

Concussion issues aside, Farrell has a different kind of headache to deal with. Four of his key starters, Sexton, Conor Murray (hamstring), James Ryan (concussion) and Peter O’Mahony (suspended) have joined Caelan Doris on the absentee list. Accordingly he has to go with an inexperienced half-back pairing and his fourth choice as captain, Iain Henderson.

“Obviously we have lost a few experienced players there during the week but one man’s loss is another man’s opportunity,” he said. “The squad is united in their excitement ahead of the weekend.”

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“You have your fingers crossed along the way (in terms of players avoiding injuries). Things don’t quite go this way from time to time. That is why you pick a squad the way you do. It gives people the chance to see what it is like in international rugby.”

The timing of the players’ injuries didn’t help, Farrell only finding out around 11am this morning that Murray wouldn’t make it after he tweaked a hamstring yesterday. Sexton’s unavailability was confirmed yesterday; Ryan’s on Tuesday, O’Mahony’s on Wednesday.

Henderson aside, the biggest winner from the selection is Billy Burns, the out half whose day ended in tears last Sunday, when he failed to find touch with the final kick of the game as Ireland chased an unlikely comeback win in Cardiff.

“Billy has been great since then,” said Farrell. “He is strong, Billy – a proper footballer. And you know, he realises everyone makes mistakes. He is a true professional. His team are right behind him and he has trained outstandingly well this week.”

There was also praise for Ruddock’s ‘resilience’ – at 30 the Leinster flanker is finally making his first Six Nations start; for Henderson’s ‘calmness and authoritative manner’ and for Jamison Gibson Park’s form.

Most telling of all, however, Farrell conceded that it isn’t just the players he is constantly evaluating but himself.

“You always look at yourselves first and foremost regarding performance and selection. But you move forward, don’t you? You cannot focus too much on the what-ifs. When you come to a few bumps in the road, all you do is look forward. There is no point in looking to the past.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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