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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 13 December, 2018

Sexton says he's 100% fit for Ireland's chance at history against the All Blacks

The Leinster out-half explains why he wasn’t place-kicking last weekend.

JOHNNY SEXTON SAYS he will be 100% fit for Ireland’s clash with New Zealand in Chicago on 5 November, despite being replaced at half-time in Leinster’s defeat to Montpellier last weekend.

The Ireland out-half says Leinster head coach Leo Cullen substituted him off only in order to manage his return from a hamstring injury.

Johnny Sexton Johnny Sexton was speaking as an Aer Lingus ambassador. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Sexton suffered a grade-one strain in the upper region of his hamstring two weeks ago, missing the game against Castres, but today stressed that the plan was always for him to come off early in Leinster’s Champions Cup clash versus Montpellier last weekend.

Leinster’s precautionary approach was designed to ensure that Sexton would not risk doing further damage to his hamstring.

“Obviously the week before, I’d hurt my hamstring, very minor but in a place that it would be quite risky,” said Sexton today at Dublin Airport. “Other guys have had trouble with it.

“So I was in a race against time to get fit for the game. I had limited training time with the lads, so then to get fit for the game was a bonus.

I knew my time would be restricted and then Leo obviously made the call to do it at half-time. I would have liked to have gone on further but I knew that it wouldn’t be the full game anyway. It was their call.”

Sexton confirmed that his hamstring issue was a strain high up on his leg, and said that Leinster’s caution last weekend was sensible.

“The other guys that have had a little strain there before, and a little bit of trouble, have made it a big problem. If you get a big problem up there, you’re looking at 16 weeks or more.

“It’s a case of just making sure that it’s 100%, which it was, and then just making sure that it was managed back into it.”

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton Sexton only played the first half for Leinster last weekend. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Oddly, Sexton did not place kick for Leinster in Montpellier, but the out-half explained that that was simply because it made more sense for Isa Nacewa to start with the duties off the tee.

“Because I knew I wasn’t playing a full game, I knew I wouldn’t play [all of it],” said Sexton.

“I thought it would be 50 or 60 [minutes] but when the conditions were [the way they were] and they didn’t want me to get cool and then warm it back up, but I was keen to get back out there.

“But I knew I wasn’t going to playing for a full game, so there’s no point in me kicking for 50 minutes and then saying, ‘Best of luck, Isa, for the rest of the game.’ As a kicker, you obviously want those early kicks. That’s it – it was made around the team. Isa is kicking well.

I was kicking in the warm-up as well, because I was fit to kick. It was just for Isa and the team and thankfully it was the right decision, because he had to nail some important kicks.

“You know, that one right at the end – if he was taking that as his first kick it could have been a more tricky goal.”

Sexton, who won’t play for Leinster this weekend against Connacht, expects to be back over the tee against New Zealand.

Aer Lingus ambassador Johnny Sexton was at Dublin Airport encouraging Ireland fans to bring #HomeAdvantage to Soldier Field in Chicago when Ireland take on the All Blacks on 5 November. Chicago is one of ten North American destinations that you can fly to direct from Ireland with Aer Lingus. 

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Murray Kinsella

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