Warren Gatland highlights concerns over Johnny Sexton's "durability"
The Irish fly-half has been dealing with an unfortunate run of injuries in recent months08:24 Thursday 8 December 2016, 8:24 8 Dec 2016
Despite being one of the best fly-halves in the world, Johnny Sexton's place in the Lions squad is not assured by any means.
This season in particular has been a difficult one for Sexton, who has struggled with both shoulder and hamstring issues, before eventually suffering a grade one strain in last month's loss against New Zealand in Dublin which has ruled him out of action for a significant period.
Although there hasn't been an official timeline given, Leinster coach Leo Cullen stated that it looks likely that Sexton will spend about three to four weeks sidelined with the injury, and that the focus was now on "trying to make sure next time he comes back and plays, whenever that may be, he’s in the best possible shape."
Speaking on Wednesday at Carton House, head coach of the British and Irish Lions Warren Gatland highlighted that he has some concerns over the Irishman's "durability" as a result of the recent run of injuries, and that he would have to factor that in to whatever decision he makes when it comes time to select his squad.
"Obviously Johnny hasn’t played a lot of rugby recently," said the coach, " and you want him to get through the Six Nations.
"The conversation with Johnny might be: 'We might take you on tour. There’s been a little bit of concern about your durability,'" Gatland added.
"If you do pick up a knock or an injury and you’re out for a couple of weeks, the quality of the squad is such that someone else could step into your shoes, and when you come back, normally when you come back in an Irish situation, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out, you go straight back into the team as number one.
"If you come into a Lions situation, if someone is playing well, you might not be going back into that starting side as the 10, you might be sitting on the bench or not involved. How are you going to be able to handle that? Are you going to be prepared for that? What’s your attitude around the team and squad going to be like?"
Gatland stated that how Sexton reacts to being told that he would spend time on the bench was a key part in the decision making process for him, and he will watch on to see how he reacts to the other challenges to his position on the domestic front in the coming weeks.
"From his point of view, the next few months and Six Nations are important for him," he added. "A couple of other players have done alright for Ireland. Paddy Jackson and the young boy [Joey] Carbery looks alright for the future as well. I think Johnny probably knows he’s probably under a little bit of pressure to be fit and perform too."
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