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17th Jul 2023

‘Confrontational, aggressive and disrespectful’ – Full Johnny Sexton ruling makes for tough read

Patrick McCarry

Johnny Sexton

‘In this instance, Johnny Sexton’s misconduct was confrontational, aggressive, and disrespectful of the match officials.’

Late on Sunday evening, the EPCR informed rugby fans of a misconduct ruling against Johnny Sexton, on behalf of an independent disciplinary committee.

Referring back to post-match incidents from the Leinster vs. La Rochelle Champions Cup final, at Aviva Stadium, the committee deemed that Sexton should serve a three-match ban and that his club should be fined €7,500 for failing to control their [now retired] captain.

The decision means Sexton now misses Ireland’s three World Cup warm-ups, against Italy, England and Samoa, but is available to represent his nation in their opening tournament game, against Romania. That full decision is available to read here, but it is worth focusing on some key points.

  • Champions Cup referee Jaco Peyper and his assistants, Karl Dickson and Christophe Ridley all spoke of what they believed to be aggressive and hostile.
  • Sexton also had a go at Tony Spreadbury, the Head of EPCR Match Officials and called him the next day to apologise
  • Sexton admitted he said ‘something to this effect: “It’s a disgrace you guys can’t get the big decisions right” probably accompanied by expletives “most likely the F word”.’
Johnny SextonJohnny Sexton pictured after the 2023 Champions Cup final. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Johnny Sexton was initially set for a six-match ban

During the misconduct hearing, Johnny Sexton let it be known that he unreservedly apologised to the officials for his post-match comments. He tried to explain that he attempted to apologise for his initial outburst during the medal presentations but was told by assistant referee Christophe Ridley, “Not now Johnny.”

Sexton called Spreadbury the day after the final to apologise for the comments directed at him. Spreadbury explained that he felt the apology was just meant for him, while Sexton contended that it was meant for him and the match officials.

Sexton’s representative argued that banning the Ireland captain from any upcoming matches would be ‘a blunt instrument’ but the independent committee did not agree. The human cost of match officials being berated in public was considered and it was noted:

‘He is a high-profile player who thereby attracts attention. His words and actions are of more interest, are more noticeable and have a greater capacity to been seen and so to cause harm.’

It was noted that the committee accepted Sexton ‘feels what is properly characterised as remorse and not self-pity, and that is it genuine’.

Mitigation – that great redeemer for so many rugby players – came into play and character references provided for Sexton, as well as his decent disciplinary record, went in his favour. Without them, he would have been banned for six matches and would have been a real World Cup doubt, only becoming available for the final group game against Scotland.

As it is, Johnny Sexton has officially played his last game in Ireland. He will wear the Ireland jersey again but will have to settle for that Grand Slam game against England as his professional swan song on these shores.

Ireland World Cup warm-ups

  • Ireland v Italy – Saturday, 5 August at Aviva Stadium
  • Ireland v England – Saturday, 19 August at Aviva Stadium
  • Ireland v Samoa – Saturday, 26 August at Parc des Sports Jean Dauger (Bayonne)

Given that Sexton was deemed to have shared his frustrations at the match officials, and the EPCR ref chief, on four separate occasions in the space of 15 minutes, all the while not even featuring in the final, Sexton got off lightly here.

He will look to get up to speed for the World Cup, now, in some intense 15 vs. 15 training drills and a possible run-out against many of the U20 stars that finished runner-up in the recent world championships.

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