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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
©INPHO/Dan Sheridan Schmidt has concerns over Sexton's game time accumulation.
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'We've lost control' - Joe Schmidt on Jonny Sexton's heavy workload
Paddy Jackson is the man entrusted with the 10 jersey as Sexton sits out the Samoa game with a hip problem.

AS JONNY SEXTON continues to suffer with a hip flexor problem, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has omitted the Racing Metro out-half from his squad to face Samoa on Saturday.

That means Paddy Jackson will make his fourth international start in the number 10 shirt, having beaten off the competition of Ian Madigan. Just four months ago, the Leinster man was ahead in the depth charts at out-half, starting both games on the tour of North America in June.

However, the wonderful form of the Ulster playmaker has convinced Schmidt that he is the man to control Ireland’s play against Samoa in Dublin, with the creative Madigan expected to make an impact off the bench. The latter’s hopes of starting for Ireland have been greatly damaged by falling behind Jimmy Gopperth at Leinster, as Schmidt readily admits.

Ian’s a player I know really well and I’ve got a lot of time for him. He’s had limited opportunities this year which obviously effects his opportunity to impress, whereas Paddy’s had that continuity of game time.

“He’s [Jackson] shown a progression through the game time and he was able to convince us that he was the right man for the job to start with. But I like the fact that Ian gives you a change-up off the bench.

“He’s versatile; he’s played 12, he’s played 13, he’s played a fair bit at 15 and obviously he’s a 10, first and foremost.”

Schmidt is confident in Jackson’s ability to excel against Samoa, but is also looking forward to Sexton’s return to the selection mix. The Kiwi head coach says it wasn’t worth risking the Lions out-half this weekend, given the possibility that his injury could have worsened by playing.

imageJackson deserves his start at 10 on Saturday. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.

“He’s got a little bit of a hip flexor tightness. We just felt that it was pertinent with the accumulation of game time that he had already. There are thoughts that it shows signs of wear and tear, as with his hip flexor. We just thought it was pertinent that we leave him off this weekend.

“There’s a risk if we do push him through and train him and play him on Saturday, that we actually worsen the condition. That might not be the most responsible course of action. Jonny didn’t train today or on Tuesday.

“He could have trained today, but we’ve tried to make sure that there’s no aggravation at all. So he’ll come in fresh on Sunday.”

It was alarming to hear Schmidt admit that there is an element of player management in the restriction of Sexton’s involvement at this early stage of the season. The out-half’s workload with Racing Metro has been much-publicized and the Ireland coach is surprisingly honest in conceding that he fears for Sexton’s longevity this season.

Part of that also is that we’re trying to limit the amount of time he has on his feet so that he gets a bit of recovery time. It is one of those unfortunate things that we’ve lost control of the player. We don’t control his game management or his minutes.

“For where he is and what he’s done already this season, for him to get a little bit of a break is a positive thing, particularly looking a lot further ahead. Through this series and even into the Six Nations, that game accumulation will start to take its toll.”

Planning for a Six Nations with a fatigued Sexton on his hands would indeed be a grave concern for Schmidt. However, the Kiwi is known for forward thinking and he will deal with that situation as he needs to in the coming months. For now, it’s time for Paddy Jackson to show what he can do.

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