high hopes | 

Johnny Sexton is hopeful he ‘won’t be out for too long’ with calf injury

An injured Jonathan Sexton watches from the stands during Ireland's match against Australia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Sinéad KissaneIndependent.ie

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton says he was “gutted” to miss Saturday’s win over Australia but insists his calf injury won’t keep him out of action “for too long”.

Sexton was a late withdrawal for Ireland’s final game of the year with a calf injury he initially felt tighten on Friday.

The veteran fly-half felt pain again while warming up on Saturday and had to pull out. With Leinster’s Champions Cup season starting in three weeks, Sexton says he hopes to be back on the field soon.​

“I had maybe something small in the captain’s run, where I just felt it tighten up a little bit, but I worked with the physios Friday night and it cleared it. I felt great going out onto the pitch on Saturday,” Sexton told the Left Wingpodcast when he arrived at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco on Sunday.

“And then I just stepped awkwardly going back for a high ball and I just felt something. I tried to run it off, but I couldn’t. Hopefully, I won’t be out for too long. I think if I had played it would have made it a lot, lot worse. Yeah, I was gutted to miss it.”

His Leinster team-mates Rónan Kelleher (hamstring) and Ryan Baird (head) missed Ireland’s November campaign but are due to return for their province this weekend.

Sexton’s late withdrawal meant Jack Crowley stepped up for his first Ireland start and wore Sexton’s jersey with the Ireland captain’s name stitched into the front of it.

“I said I don’t know what you’re going to do with that, Jack, but he said he’d keep it. It’s a good story. He can put it up on his wall or something and it will be a great story to tell in years to come,” the skipper said. “He did well to come in at short notice and Ross to come in at the end and nail such a big kick and a difficult kick. It was great for both of them.”

Sexton was named on the World Rugby Men’s 15s Dream Team of the Year on Sunday night in Monaco while his Leinster and Ireland team-mate Josh van der Flier beat him to the Men’s 15s World Player of the Year award.

After a clean sweep of wins in November ensured Ireland will retain their position as the No 1-ranked team in the world, Sexton believes this Irish team need to win a Six Nations or a Grand Slam next year to underline their progress before the World Cup.

“I think it’s important that we go and achieve something. You can’t go to a World Cup not having. Obviously, we have the series in New Zealand, we’ve got a Triple Crown but to go and win something sort of a traditional trophy like a Championship or a Grand Slam would be what we’re aiming for. You have to. I think that would put us in good stead to prove that we’ve done everything that we can going into a World Cup.

“Yeah, three wins (this month). Performance levels probably not at the level that we would have liked but international rugby is about results. I suppose when you’re number one in the world – or you’re ranked number one in the world, we’re not saying we are but that’s what our ranking is – teams want to come and disrupt you and mess you up and teams have done that – South Africa and Australia and Fiji. We coped well with it at times but other times we need to be better.”

For more from Sexton, check out a special episode of the 'Left Wing’ at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco which also features interviews with award winners Josh van der Flier and Terry Kennedy

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