Johnny Sexton: ‘I went to tests expecting to come back and wasn’t admitted which is fair enough’

After another week of talk and speculation about Johnny Sexton’s health, it was up to the man himself to set the record straight once and for all.

Earlier in the day, the All Blacks appeared surprised by the suggestion that Sexton would face them in tomorrow’s second Test, especially given that Sam Whitelock has been suspended for 12 days following World Rugby’s latest concussion protocols.

But the only significant difference between the Sexton and Whitelock cases is that the Irish captain was never diagnosed with a concussion at Eden Park over the past weekend or the days that followed.

The phrase “failing HIA (head injury assessment)” has strong connotations — and in this particular example, there was a great deal of confusion that Sexton was happy to clear up.

“I’ve been asked the same questions before, you go to an HIA and you don’t come back, everyone assumes it’s a concussion but it’s not,” he explained.

“It’s only when there’s a suspicion (concussion) or doubts about the player. Apparently, for whatever reason, the independent doctor sensed my reaction to the tapping, or whether it was a trifle or two on the test. But whatever, that’s history now. I’m looking forward to this week.”

Sexton has been able to train as usual this week after medics gave him the all-clear on Tuesday.

“It was fine, it was really a normal week,” he continued.

“I just had to do all the necessary tests. Apparently I knocked under unfortunate circumstances and slipped into a duel. But I was fine, honestly.

“I went to tests expecting to come back and wasn’t admitted, which is fair enough. That’s what it’s for. It’s there to protect players who are kept away if they suspect a concussion, and that’s what happened with the independent doctor.

“As frustrating as it was for me back then, it’s just life. Carry on, did all the tests and of course all passed with flying colors.”

Because players get adrenaline pumping when they’re removed from the field, Sexton agrees that the initial HIA is often difficult to pass.

“A few years ago, players said the same thing,” he recalled.

“We did our baseline tests when we were fresh and we came off the pitch after a hit, for example, and kept playing and they want to check you and you come down and you fail.

“We ended up creating our baselines in the middle of one session and got a more realistic one.

“They’re hard to overtake, you know what I mean? But again, you saw that during the Maori game, obviously a whole different thing, and that was also criticized.

“So it is very difficult to win in this scenario. But like I said, everyone is just trying to do their best for the players. We have a great medical staff and facility here. I think they expected to see me again but we passed all the tests and luckily are ready to go this week.

When asked when the baseline tests changed, Sexton added: “It’s only been a few years but some guys haven’t changed that much. Mine hasn’t changed all that much.”

Sexton will play at Forsyth Barr Stadium for the first time since Ireland defeated Italy at the 2011 World Cup. However, the out-half, who turns 37 on Monday, does not have happy personal memories of the Dunedin venue.

“I was on the bench,” Sexton smiled.

“I didn’t know the name of this (team) hotel, I was thinking about it all week and then we arrived and it was like, ‘Ah, I remember now!’

“I remember Deccie[Kidney]coming into my room, sitting across from me on the bed and dumping me. So yeah, it’s amazing the memories that come back. Thanks for bringing it!

“Nevertheless, it was an incredible game. I don’t know the capacity of the stadium (30,748) but there were 90 Irish spectators and there was a party atmosphere.

“It was a great opportunity to be there. I would have preferred to start but I was able to absorb it.” Johnny Sexton: ‘I went to tests expecting to come back and wasn’t admitted which is fair enough’

Fry Electronics Team

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