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Published: 18:34 | 26/1/16

Lenihan weighs in on Sexton debate

Voices concerns over potential head injury

Former Ireland and Lions captain Donal Lenihan has expressed his concerns following Jonathan Sexton's latest head injury scare in Leinster's defeat to Wasps at the weekend.

The TV and newspaper pundit says that he would be "extremely worried" if Sexton was his son.

The Leinster and Ireland out-half left the field early on Saturday after a clash of heads with former team-mate Brendan Macken and there is some confusion over whether or not he failed or even underwent a head injury assessment.

Leinster coach Leo Cullen implied the former immediately after the match, but confusion arose when he later said that Sexton had been taken off merely as a precaution and that no head injury assessment had taken place.

"We know it was a bang to the head. The confusion has arisen because Leo Cullen came out immediately after the game and said he had failed the head injury assessment," Lenihan said.

"Now we're told that he didn't fail it but that the Leinster medical people weren't 100% satisfied to send him back onto the pitch.

"That, to me, says there was an issue there. If he was my son I would be extremely worried about what he's going through at the moment."We're all more educated on concussion than we were even three or four years ago. I would certainly take the medical people at face value.

"The days are gone when you were forced to go out and play if there were issues like that surrounding you. But the facts, as they have been relayed since the incident, have only served to confuse the issue."

Sexton missed three months of rugby under return to play protocols after suffering four concussions in 2014 and Lenihan fears for the former Racing Metro player's future in the game if he suffers another one.

"I looked at the bang, an innocuous thing between himself and Brendan Macken and all I could recall was Bernard Jackman, who as we know suffered numerous concussions over the course of his career," he added.

"He told me, that at the end of his career, he was having concussive incidents warming up with Leinster and just hitting the tackle bag.

"The more you've had them the easier they reoccur and that is the concern with Sexton.

"If you're putting him out against Wales in two weeks' time, we know Jamie Roberts, 17/18 stone of a centre, is going to come haring down, as Basteraud has done in the past.

"We know that Johnny Sexton's style of tackling makes him even more open to getting head bangs. To me he always looks like he's trying to effect a choke tackle and as a result of that is exposed."

Lenihan also feels that someone has to make a firm decision on the issue of concussion to protect all rugby players in the long term, not just Sexton.

"There are so many issues there. Somebody has to take responsibility. It has to be taken out of Johnny Sexton's hands and somebody has to make a hard decision," he continued.

"As we know, it happened automatically in France, after four concussions he was put on the sidelines for 12 weeks.

"From speaking to someone involved in the boxing world, a boxer would be stood down at this stage.

"You have to say it is over 12 months since he's had a concussion that we're aware of. In the French game (at the World Cup) he got absolutely smashed by Louis Picamoles but research has shown that you don't have to get a bang on the head to have concussion.

"If you've had a number of them, the vibration of a hit can affect your brain. We have to take it on face value, what we were told is that he had a groin injury and he did play within three weeks of that.

"He looks pale, he looks gaunt and he's just not the Johnny Sexton that left Ireland two years ago."

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