Ireland captain Johnny Sexton. Billy Stickland/INPHO

'He's training as hard as ever' - Sexton awaits next week's verdict

The Ireland captain must face a disciplinary hearing and could miss World Cup warm-up games.

IT REMAINS TO be seen exactly what part Johnny Sexton will be able to play in Ireland’s World Cup warm-up games as the Irish captain waits for the outcome of his disciplinary hearing next week.

The 37-year-old will face an independent disciplinary panel on Thursday 13 July following misconduct complaints relating to his behaviour towards the match officials in the aftermath of Leinster’s Champions Cup final defeat to La Rochelle in May.

Sexton was seen approaching referee Jaco Peyper after the final whistle and tournament organisers EPCR confirmed last week that Sexton and Leinster – who face a complaint of “failing to exercise reasonable control” over Sexton – will face the disciplinary panel by video conference.

If Sexton receives a suspension, he could miss out on Ireland’s World Cup warm-up fixtures. Andy Farrell’s side face Italy on 5 August, play England on 19 August, then conclude their preparations with a clash against Samoa on 26 August, two weeks before their opening World Cup pool game versus Romania.

Sexton hasn’t played any rugby since suffering a groin injury back in March while starring for Ireland in the Six Nations, so will be keen to get back as soon as possible. 

Ireland began their pre-season training on 19 June, completing a two-week block in camp, and despite the uncertainty over Sexton’s possible availability, the skipper hasn’t portrayed a picture of deep worry.

“I don’t think so,” said Ireland centre Garry Ringrose. “He’s certainly training as hard as ever and getting the most out of everyone around him. Nothing’s changed from that perspective.”

Garry wit rugby ball Garry Ringrose is an ambassador for the National Dairy Council.

Ringrose underlined that he and Ireland don’t know what will happen next but the Leinster midfielder added that “hopefully it’s alright.”

Even if Sexton is forced to miss some of Ireland’s warm-up fixtures, Ringrose will have no concerns over the captain’s readiness for the World Cup.

Sexton has returned from long injury spells to make an immediate impact with Ireland in the past and Ringrose is confident the veteran out-half could do something similar this year if required.

“He has an unbelievable gift that whatever challenge seems to be thrown at him he deals with it head on and is resilient and gets through it,” said Ringrose.

“Whether he gets to play all the pre-season games or if he or some guys pick up a niggle and have to wait until the World Cup to play, he and a few others are brilliant at being able to tackle any challenge that comes their way.

“He’s an unbelievable leader for us, he has so much experience when it comes to the World Cup so everyone is still tapping into him as much as they can and he has been brilliant at helping other guys around him, whatever might happen outside of that.

“So whatever happens happens, but I know he’ll be able to take it in his stride.”

garry-ringrose Ringrose at pre-season training with Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland have made a good start to their pre-season, returning to training last month for an initial two-week block before breaking up this week. Ringrose explained that players still have training targets to hit in their own time away from the IRFU’s high performance centre.

But the Ireland coaches are determined to give the squad “a bit more space mentally,” in Ringrose’s words, with a couple of breaks from camp planned.

As Farrell and co. laid the foundations for the World Cup ahead, they reviewed some of Ireland’s work during their Grand Slam campaign this year, as well as some of the Irish provinces’ games since. The key message for the players was that they cannot stand still.

“It was a dream come true for everyone involved to win a Grand Slam but there were loads of moments within the games that you’re always striving to improve on and get better,” said Ringrose.

“Everyone’s acutely aware that all the other teams will improve now and get better so the challenge everyone is licking their lips about is to do the same thing. We have to try to take our game to another level knowing other teams are going to do exactly the same.”

This year’s tournament in France will be Ringrose’s second World Cup, with the Dublin man having started four games for Ireland last time out in Japan. He has become one of the leading centres in the game in recent seasons and is raring to get another shot on this stage.

“It’s crazy how quick time has flown by from the last World Cup,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like that long ago but so much has happened in the interim. It makes me appreciate the opportunity to go into a pre-season and give it a crack.

“There’s a lot of stuff I can’t control, so it’s about focusing on what I can control. It’s an opportunity to represent our country in a World Cup. It’s the pinnacle really. It’s hugely exciting, hugely motivating, and one I can’t wait to get stuck into and will hopefully get there.”

Garry Ringrose is an ambassador for the National Dairy Council and the NDC Guarantee Mark, which signifies local, sustainable, naturally nutritious grass-fed dairy.

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