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Sexton certain that IRFU and Leinster will take best care of James Ryan

The Ireland captain believes that 20-year-old lock Joe McCarthy has strong potential.

James Ryan and Johnny Sexton.
James Ryan and Johnny Sexton.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Updated Mar 16th 2022, 8:32 AM

IRELAND CAPTAIN JOHNNY Sexton says team-mate James Ryan will receive the best care possible as he looks to return from the concussion he suffered against England last weekend.

Ryan was forced off in the second minute at Twickenham after a head-on-head high tackle by England’s Charlie Ewels, who was red-carded.

Ireland confirmed on Monday that Ryan will not be considered for selection against Scotland in their final Six Nations game this Saturday and that his return-to-rugby protocols will be managed by Leinster’s medical team.

The 25-year-old has had to deal with a number of head injuries in recent seasons, spending a handful of periods on the sidelines as Leinster have dealt with his returns to play cautiously. 

Sexton, who has had to deal with concussion issues himself in the past, said that Ryan was unfortunate to be on the end of such a heavy blow from Ewels and insisted that the second row will only be back in action when he is 100% fit.

“When it’s you and you’re in that situation, it’s really tough because speculation is the one thing that doesn’t help,” said Sexton.

“All I can say about it is he was in good form after the game, he was in good health. It’s not like he’s struggling big time. I think the hit that he got was particularly bad.

“I don’t think many people would have stayed on after it, whether they’d had a concussion previously or not. It’s kind of one of those ones where he’s bounced back pretty well from it.

“He’s going to see the best people in the world about it and make sure that he is 100% when he comes back, whenever that is. The IRFU will look after him, Leinster will look after him and that’s one of the best things about being at home – that you are really well looked after.

“He won’t come back until he’s 100% ready, so whenever you do see him, it means that he’s good to go. He’s played a lot of rugby since his last one and he hasn’t had any issues and he’s taken some big knocks.

“I don’t think his tolerance or anything is decreasing. It was a pretty bad wallop and that can happen in the game.”

joe-mccarthy McCarthy has impressed for Leinster. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

With Ryan Baird also ruled out of the Scotland game due to a back injury, Ireland boss Andy Farrell has called up two more Leinster locks in Ross Molony and 20-year-old Joe McCarthy.

It is expected that Iain Henderson will be promoted into the starting XV alongside Tadhg Beirne, with Kieran Treadwell coming onto the Irish bench, but Moloney and McCarthy have been in good form.

6ft 6ins McCarthy is still in Leinster’s academy and has impressed recently in his first four senior appearances for the provinces. 

“He’s been outstanding,” said Sexton. “We’ve all seen him in the gym and we’ve always commented on what a big man he’s been.

“He was injured for a year and a bit like James Ryan, he had that injury out of school and it allowed him to get into the gym and develop physically and you saw the impact James Ryan had when he… I remember watching the first game he played, I think it was against Montpellier in the European Cup, he was sort of thrown in there last minute and he was outstanding and he hasn’t looked back since. 

“I think if this guy [McCarthy] got his chance, I think he’d be something similar. He’s impressed me week on week in the games I’ve seen him play for Leinster.

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“Each week I’m going, ‘He’s way better than he was last week’ and that takes a special kind of player to do that.

“He’s a real humble fella as well. He’s really grounded. He’s got a big career ahead of him if he can keep developing like he is. He’s been great so far.”

More immediately, Sexton is hoping Ireland can finish their Six Nations with their best performance yet as they look to secure a Triple Crown against Scotland and leave themselves in position to take advantage of France potentially slipping up against England.

irelands-johnny-sexton-after-the-match Sexton and Ireland are out to finish with their best performance. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Despite notching a bonus-point win in Twickenham on a record margin, Ireland still feel they left plenty behind them and Sexton wants to see a more clinical attacking display.

“It is a mixture of things, sometimes trying to force it, other times being too conservative,” said Sexton. “It’s just all decision-making, and that’s something Andy has focused on since he has come in in the last couple of years.

“You would be more worried if you weren’t creating those opportunities. That is the hardest thing. It’s always been the hardest thing in rugby taking those opportunities.

“The best teams, you think of New Zealand over the years when they had their dominance, they were just so good at taking their opportunities. They were so clinical, they wouldn’t be in the game, and ‘bang’ before you know it two tries and you are going ‘how do they do that?’ so that is the room for growth for us – being able to take those.

“At the same time, you have 15 players in the opposition who are trying to do everything in their power to try and stop you and make it as tough as possible.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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