Six Nations 2023: Ireland captain Johnny Sexton declares himself fit for ‘huge’ France clash in Dublin

Johnny Sexton took a blow to the head during Ireland’s 34-10 win over Wales in Cardiff at the weekend and had to complete a head injury assessment (HIA) before he could resume training; Ireland face France in Dublin on Saturday

Last Updated: 09/02/23 7:55am

Johnny Sexton is fit to play for Ireland in Saturday’s Six Nations clash with France

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is eagerly anticipating facing France for the first time in three years after declaring himself fit for Saturday’s “huge” Guinness Six Nations showdown.

The fly-half has undergone a head injury assessment (HIA) and overcome a dead leg suffered in the round-one win over Wales and hopes to avoid further late fitness “hiccups” ahead of a potential championship title decider in Dublin.

Reigning Grand Slam champions France are the only major nation yet to suffer defeat against Andy Farrell’s Ireland, with Sexton a late withdrawal ahead of the previous two meetings due to injury issues.

Sexton was replaced in the second half of Ireland's 34-10 win over Wales in their Six Nations opener

Sexton was replaced in the second half of Ireland’s 34-10 win over Wales in their Six Nations opener

The 37-year-old’s most recent outing against Les Bleus was a frustrating 35-27 defeat in Paris at the end of the prolonged 2020 tournament when he hit the headlines for his angry reaction to being substituted.

“I was saying this morning, the last two Wednesdays before France over the last two fixtures I’ve ended up pulling out, so to get through today is great,” Sexton said. “I can look forward to the game, hopefully no more hiccups.

“Obviously the confusion around the HIA and stuff like that, there’s nothing I can control about that, but I’ll be ready to go for 80 [minutes] this week if needed. It feels like a huge game. There’s no point in saying anything otherwise.

“You can’t just come in here and say ‘it’s just another game’ because it’s not, it’s one we’ve waited a long time for and I’ve read that they want this test – to come to the Aviva and try and overturn us. It’s a huge game.”

Ireland had to settle for the consolation of a Triple Crown last year following a 30-24 Stade de France defeat, which Sexton watched from the stands due to a hamstring problem.

In 2021, the veteran failed to satisfy return-to-play protocols ahead of a narrow 15-13 Dublin loss to Les Bleus, having been angered in the build-up by “highly inappropriate” comments from a French doctor about his concussion record.

Sexton has missed the last two Six Nations meetings between Ireland and France

Sexton has missed the last two Six Nations meetings between Ireland and France

“They are always big weeks, often for me something comes out of the woodwork in French week and I’m expecting something later in the week,” he said. “It’s always a big game; I grew up in an era of watching Ireland lose to France, heavily, to then sort of see the first teams beating them and then to be part of teams beating them has been amazing.

“But you still have those memories from a young kid of France coming and demolishing Ireland. You probably naturally feel the underdog at my age, whereas the younger lads probably don’t. It’s a strange mixture in the squad.”

Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and prop Tadhg Furlong have been ruled out for Ireland, with both also sitting out of Ireland’s 34-10 win over Wales on Saturday. Prop Cian Healy, who was a late withdrawal from the Ireland bench against Wales due to a hamstring injury, also remains absent.

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