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'It would be pretty demanding' - Sexton not keen on condensed Six Nations

The 31-year-old Ireland out-half feels the current schedule is already demanding enough.

IRELAND OUT-HALF Johnny Sexton says any move to condense the Six Nations schedule by removing one or both of the rest weeks would involve heavy demands on the players.

Speaking at the launch of the rebranded Rugby Players Ireland – formerly known as IRUPA – the 31-year-old indicated that he is in favour of the Six Nations continuing as it currently is, with rest weekends after the second and third rounds.

[image alt="Jonathan Sexton" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2017/04/jonathan-sexton-236-630x432.jpg" width="630" height="432" class="alignnone" /end]

Sexton stressed that he has no doubts the IRFU would continue to manage their players intelligently even if the Six Nations was to change, but he underlined that the current format already places great physical demands on Test stars.

Even after missing the opening two rounds of this year’s Six Nations, Sexton said he still needed a break after Ireland finished second in the championship.

“I think the way it is now, I played three games in four weeks and it was tough,” said Sexton. “Your body at the end of it needs a week just to get right, so to suggest playing five games in six weeks or five games in five weeks, it would be pretty demanding.

“The argument people will have is that you need to have the best squad, to have depth, and that’s an argument as well.

From a players’ point of view, from an IRFU point of view, we know we’re going to get looked after no matter what. I think the IRFU have been leading the way in terms of looking after players.

“You only notice that when you go away and don’t have the player welfare programme, you do miss it.”

The RFU and Premiership Rugby have been leading the charge in terms of promoting the value of condensing the Six Nations, as rugby gets set for a new global calendar from 2020 onwards.

Another of the arguments in favour of a condensed Six Nations is that World Cups already place demands on players in terms of back-to-back games every weekend.

[image alt="Owen Farrell with Jonathan Sexton" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2017/04/owen-farrell-with-jonathan-sexton-4-630x435.jpg" width="630" height="435" class="alignnone" /end]

But Sexton sees flaws in that suggestion.

“People will say there’s no break in a World Cup, so what’s the big deal with the Six Nations?” said Sexton.

“I suppose the one difference with a World Cup is that it’s traditionally at the start of the season, so most of the time you have a full squad to pick from anyway.

There are games within a World Cup where you can potentially change your squad, whereas in the Six Nations there isn’t much scope to rest guys or change players in those Six Nations game.”

Sexton’s fellow Ireland international, Josh van der Flier – also speaking at the Rugby Players Ireland event – echoed the Leinster out-half’s sentiment in regards to the value of the rest weekends in the Six Nations.

“That’s the good thing about the way the Six Nations is at the moment, having those two weeks after really tough internationals, with the break,” said van der Flier.

“I haven’t been involved in the first three Six Nations games before, but after a few tough games in a row at that level, it’s not bad to have a weekend off, but I don’t know what decision they’ll make.

“I’m sure it will be in the interest of the players anyway.”

– First published 13.40, 12 April

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Murray Kinsella

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