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06th Aug 2023

Johnny Sexton expected to make Ireland return in behind-closed-doors friendly

Niall McIntyre

Johnny Sexton is expected to make his Ireland return in a behind-closed-doors friendly match this week.

The Irish rugby team are jetting out to the Algarve for some warm-weather-training this week, with a practice match against their hosts lined up.

The match will take place in Ireland’s training base and it is being reported by Peter O’Reilly in The Times that it will mark their captain’s first game since the Grand Slam win over England, back in March.

Portugal are the World number 16 ranked team, and they are preparing for their first World Cup since 2007.

Os Lobos scraped into this year’s competition, as the 20th and final qualifier after wins over some lower-ranked nations such as Spain and Netherlands over the last couple of years.

Sexton came off injured in the 73rd minute of that Grand Slam win over England before going under the knife for groin surgery.

The injury kept him out of the closing stages of Leinster’s season, confining him to the stands for Leinster’s Champions Cup loss to La Rochelle.

Johnny SextonJohnny Sexton pictured after the 2023 Champions Cup final. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Simon Easterby on Johnny Sexton

It was up there, on the back of his treatment of the match officials, as well as EPCR Head of Referees Tony Spreadbury, where Sexton earned himself a three-game-ban that will rule him out of all of Ireland’s World Cup warm-up matches.

The 38-year-old did not appeal his ban and apologised for his behaviour. The former St Mary’s College player has been back in training with Ireland over the last few weeks, and watched their win over Italy in the Aviva Stadium from the stands.

He would be allowed to play in Ireland’s game against Portugal seeing as it is not an official fixture, but a training run. Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby addressed the matter with reporters in Portugal, on Tuesday. He commented:

“Often teams collaborate with other teams and get the opportunity to do some set-piece against each other and run backline against backline.

“It certainly isn’t a full-blown game, it’s a conditioned training session which has been a collaboration between the Portuguese coaches and ourselves around trying to create a training session which is slightly different from the norm.”

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