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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018

Time in France had lasting impact on Johnny Sexton's resilience, says Joe Schmidt

“We’re looking to manage our players, we’re looking to add to the longevity of our players.”

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IT’S TWO YEARS since Jonathan Sexton returned from his Top14 spell with Racing 92.

But given Simon Zebo is headed down that road, the Dubliner’s time in Paris has returned to the front of many minds.

Sexton mentioned the stint himself last week, reeling off the intensive schedule he was put through in his first months in the ciel et bleu when asked to flag any issues that Zebo may encounter.

This week, that same portion of Sexton’s career was highlighted by Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt as he espoused the virtues of playing rugby in Ireland under the IRFU’s player management programme.

“The other real advantage,” Schmidt said after reasoning that placing a deterrent to players moving abroad is a boost to interest in the provinces, “is that selecting within Ireland, the players can be better managed. We already know that.

“There’s one player who went to  Racing 92 and was played for the first 12 games in the season, and I’m not sure he’s ever had the same resilience since then.

“So we’re looking to manage our players, we’re looking to add to the longevity of our players. At the same time we’re trying to support the provinces.”

Though Schmidt didn’t mention Sexton by name, it doesn’t take much deduction to figure out that Donnacha Ryan has not been in Paris long enough to show any after effects, let alone play 12 times.

Asked whether the lack of resilience in Sexton was borne out by injuries or a touch of fatigue, Schmidt replied:

“I think it’s pretty self evident. He hasn’t played 12 games in a row since then and that’s because: you pick up the wear and tear and it’s hard then to get that back.

“The wear and tear is something that, you can get a long rest and bounce back, and Johnny’s had a few rests and he has bounced back.

“What you tend to do as a more experienced player is, you tend to manage your time a little bit better. But in this country you get that opportunity a lot more.

“It was the same with Paul O’Connell. I think he really extended his career by  staying. He got himself in the right shape, his time was managed and there are players who have taken up that opportunity.”

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