Leading candidates for Ireland's No.10 jersey as Johnny Sexton undergoes cheekbone 'procedure' 2 months ago

Leading candidates for Ireland's No.10 jersey as Johnny Sexton undergoes cheekbone 'procedure'

"Our talisman, Johnny Sexton was off getting an x-ray."

Irish rugby supporters are used to the sight of Johnny Sexton down and clutching some part of his body - he puts himself through the wringer - but images of him leaving the RDS pitch, on Saturday, were unsettling.


Sexton went too high on Connacht captain Jarrad Butler and copped a charging cranium to his cheekbone, dropping in a heap after the contact. While there have been valid arguments about the outhalf being fortunate to escape sanction for his tackle attempt, that fortune evaded him when it came to the contact damage.

TV pictures showed Sexton being led off the pitch with a badly dented cheekbone. He was then pictured on the bench with a big bag of ice on his injured cheek.


Leo Cullen confirmed, after his side's 29-point win over Connacht, that Johnny Sexton would go for a scan on his injured cheek. On Tuesday, the Leinster Rugby fitness update read:

'Johnny Sexton: suffered a cheek bone injury during the game against Connacht Rugby and will have a procedure today and will be further assessed then.'

On the latest House of Rugby [LISTEN from 1:25 below], Greg O'Shea reflected on that Leinster win, Sexton's injury and who could step in if the Ireland captain misses the start of the 2023 Six Nations.


Johnny Sexton Johnny Sexton of Leinster after the United Rugby Championship win over Connacht. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile)

The candidates for Ireland's No.10 jersey

"Johnny Sexton took a big knock to the cheek," noted Greg O'Shea, "when he went in to tackle Jarrad Butler.


"Fingers crossed Johnny is not out for more than a couple of weeks. He could be out for six to eight weeks if that cheekbone injury turns out to be a bad fracture. Approaching the Six Nations, that would not be good for Ireland. Obviously, we have other guys who could step into his boots, like Jack Crowley who played really well in the Munster win over Ulster."

With Sexton's procedure on his cheek now confirmed by Leinster and with Ciarán Frawley [knee] still out for a while, here are the leading candidates [five to one] for Ireland's 10 jersey in the upcoming Six Nations.

Before we get into it, the list is based somewhat on what Andy Farrell is likely to go with when it is time to make the call. For that reason, Jack Carty and Billy Burns miss out.

5. Harry Byrne (Leinster)

Was looking like the heir apparent when he jumped the queue, and his older brother, in a few Andy Farrell squad selections. Staying fit has been his downfall, thus far, and has seen him fall down the pecking order. Has made four sub appearances for Leinster, this season, but may get a start (or two) with Sexton sidelined.


Johnny Sexton

4. Ross Byrne (Leinster)

Was fearing his Test career was over until injuries to Sexton, Carbery, Frawley and his younger brother saw him named on the bench against Australia. He came on and slotted over the winning penalty. Did his confidence wonders.

3. Jack Crowley (Munster)

His line break (and five defenders beaten) shows what an extra attacking dimension he can bring to teams. Is getting runs at 10 and 12 for Munster and, while not perfect, showed no fear or hesitation when thrown in to start against Australia.

2. Joey Carbery (Munster)

Still the man Andy Farrell is likely to start at 10 in Cardiff, against Warren Gatland's Wales, if Johnny Sexton is not ready in time. Showed good moments for Munster and Ireland, this season. In truth, a few starts in the Six Nations should do him, and ultimately Ireland, no harm, with one eye on the World Cup.

Joey Carbery

1. Johnny Sexton (Leinster)

He will be doing all in his power to get cleared to start against the Welsh, in Cardiff. He has clearly damaged his cheekbone but, like Iain Henderson and others before him, could wear a protective mask if it was the difference in being involved or not.

Related articles: