Johnny Sexton will feel uneasy about missing warm-up matches – Paul O’Connell

Paul O’Connell believes suspended Ireland captain Johnny Sexton will be concerned about his lack of game time ahead of his World Cup swansong.

Fly-half Sexton, who is set to retire following the tournament in France, will miss each of his country’s warm-up matches after being hit with a three-match ban for misconduct.

The 38-year-old has not played competitively since March, having been forced off by a groin injury in the final match of the Guinness Six Nations against England.

Johnny Sexton was forced off injured against England in March

Johnny Sexton was forced off injured against England in March (Brian Lawless/PA)

Forwards coach O’Connell insists Sexton’s extended absence is not a major worry for Ireland’s management team but concedes his former team-mate is likely to feel uneasy about the situation.

“Whenever he’s come back from injuries (previously), he rarely needs a lot of games to get back up and running,” said O’Connell.

“It’s a real strength of his. He’s trained since the start of pre-season pretty much, he hasn’t missed a training session.

“He seems to watch an awful lot of rugby, he thinks a lot about rugby, so I think that kind of helps him hit the ground running when he comes back.

“(But) I’d say it’s a worry for him, you know. He wants to finish playing really, really well, and I’d say he’d love to have a few more games under his belt.

“It is what it is. It’s not something I’m worried about.”

Ireland face Italy, England and Samoa this month before beginning their World Cup campaign on September 9 against Romania in Bordeaux.

Sexton’s prolonged spell on the sidelines – in the wake of his behaviour following Leinster’s Heineken Champions Cup final defeat by La Rochelle on May 20 – has opened the door for rival number 10s Ross Byrne, Jack Crowley and Ciaran Frawley.

O’Connell says the opportunity for the three understudies is a significant “silver lining” of the undesirable circumstances.

“They’re all playing for places – Johnny’s selection allows those guys to own it a little bit,” said the 43-year former lock, who represented Ireland at four World Cups.

“It puts us in a good position heading into the World Cup because those guys get to accumulate more experience; not just of playing on the big day, but of owning it and running the week, driving some of the detail as well.

“Johnny’s suspension is unfortunate for us. But there’s a real good silver lining for us as well.”

You might also like...