'This has to be clear, Johnny was not dropped'

Leinster’s message is clear: their captain was not left out of the team at the weekend for performance-related reasons.

FELIPE CONTEPOMI TODAY moved to back up comments made by Leo Cullen over the weekend as Leinster insist Johnny Sexton was not dropped for Saturday’s Pro14 semi-final win over Munster.

The Leinster head coach expressed his frustration at what he perceived to be ‘nasty’ headlines suggesting Sexton had been left out of the province’s starting XV for performance-related reasons after Ross Byrne was named to start. 

Johnny Sexton celebrates after the game Sexton came off the bench for the final 23 minutes on Saturday. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Cullen took exception to the use of the word ‘dropped’ by some media outlets.

World Player of the Year was deemed fit to play after taking a full part in training last week but surprisingly had to settle for a place on the bench for the last-four tie against Munster, before coming on for the final 23 minutes at the RDS.

Cullen had hit out at the media’s role in ‘sensationalising’ some of his team selections after there had been much debate over Sexton’s omission from Leinster’s side along with Seán O’Brien, Rob Kearney and Scott Fardy as part of four changes the province made from their Champions Cup defeat to Saracens. 

Contepomi, Leinster’s attack coach, remained firm in his message at this afternoon’s Pro14 final media day, insisting there was a universal agreement that it would be best for Sexton to come off the bench as fresh as possible.

“This has to be clear, Johnny was not dropped,” he said, when asked to clarify the weekend’s selection. “If that’s the way people want to see it or say it, that’s a perception or something that someone says from outside.

We, and when I say we, it’s not only the staff but the players as well, we all want the best for Leinster and Johnny demonstrated how great a team player and leader he is because he is the captain of the team. Coming back from a very bruised 80 minutes in the Champions Cup and all [after] he was injured.

“We thought, and everyone agreed, that maybe the best thing for him was to come off the bench and be fresh or as fresh as possible. He showed… his show and go and break, and I think sometimes… I’m not saying journalists but you want to have a headline of ‘Jonathan Sexton dropped’. We don’t drop him, we all agree and are in the same boat and Johnny is one of them.”

When asked if Sexton would return to the starting team for Saturday’s Pro14 final against Glasgow Warriors, Contepomi added: “We haven’t talked yet.”

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