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Johnny Sexton passes his latest head injury assessment test and is allowed play this Saturday

Sexton failed his initial HIA last Saturday but has subsequently passed two exams and is thereby free to play in Dunedin against the All Blacks.

Sexton in training today.
Sexton in training today.

Updated Jul 5th 2022, 8:24 AM

JOHNNY SEXTON HAS been cleared to play for Ireland against New Zealand in Saturday’s second test of their three-match series.

Sexton was taken off midway through the first-half of Saturday’s game against the All Blacks in Eden Park. In technical terms this was his first head injury assessment, or HIA 1, as it is referred to in World Rugby parlance. He failed that test which meant they could neither confirm nor clear him of experiencing a concussive incident.

Later, at the end of the game, he had his second test, HIA 2, which he passed.

That meant he had an opportunity to feature in this weekend’s game in Dunedin but his availability was dependent on a successful third and more rigorous test, conducted on Monday, 48 hours after Saturday’s game.

He passed this one which means he did not suffer a concussion on Saturday. Instead the independent doctors who assessed him advised that he is cleared to play..

“He is good to go this weekend,” according to Mike Catt, one of Ireland’s assistant coaches.

“Johnny is fine,” Catt continued.

With so much confusion surrounding these HIA tests – in terms of how Sexton could fail one on Saturday but pass two in the following hours and days – pressure for an explanation is growing. In Auckland this morning, where the team and Sexton trained, Catt was asked if he could clarify this confusing situation.

“No, I don’t work for World Rugby,” Catt said, smiling. “Johnny is fit. He has passed every test he needs to pass, so from our point of view he is good to go on Saturday. He is a massive cog in there for us but I also think Joey (Carbery, Sexton’s back-up) came on and did well in Saturday’s test.

“Touring is all about our ability to adapt to whatever gets thrown at you.

“We have done that pretty well and we hope that continues.”

mack-hansen-during-the-training Mack Hansen trained today in Auckland.

One thing Catt hopes does not continue is New Zealand’s dominance of this fixture on home soil. Thirteen times they have played Ireland here in their country; thirteen times they have won.

“They play a fantastic brand of rugby,” said Catt. “They’ve got an all-court game, so whether it’s kicking, running, pick-and-go, a set-piece game, they are all there.

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“Defensively, they were very, very strong on their line, and that was a massive plus, it gave them a lot of energy, and they were positive on the back of it. They’re very good at it.”

They will have to be good without Sam Whitelock, their exceptional and experienced lock, who has been ruled out of the series. Ireland’s back-up hooker, Dave Heffernan, and third-choice loosehead, Jeremy Loughman, will not return until the third test while Finlay Bealham continues his recovery from Covid.

Stuart McCloskey, the Ulster centre, arrived in Auckland last night and trained with the team today.

In response to Whitelock’s withdrawal, Catt said: “It’s a big blow for them, to be honest. Sam has played some amazing games and is a brilliant rugby player. But we are under no illusions the next person stepping in is not that far behind Sam.”

Irish prop, Tadhg Furlong, added: “We still have to look after our own stuff. From an All Black point of view, he is such a huge player for them, especially around lineout time, contact time. We saw him in that third playmaker role at the weekend. I have no doubt they have plenty of quality in depth but he is an unbelievably experienced rugby player.”

Better news for the All Blacks comes in the form of the news that Crusaders players, David Havili, Jack Goodhue and Will Jordan are available to play again after testing positive for Covid last week.

About the author:

Garry Doyle  / reports from Auckland

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