Johnny Sexton says he will be all good to go for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Wales as he is back to full training next week.
Sexton hasn’t played since he suffered a cheek bone injury during Leinster’s win against Connacht on New Year’s Day, although he is on track to return to the pitch just in time for the Six Nations.
Facial injuries are never pleasant, although Sexton revealed at the Six Nations media launch that suffering damage to the cheekbone isn’t particularly debilitating.
“Of course, after the initial bang I was worried for what was ahead. Thankfully it’s probably the one bone in your face that you’re happy to get knocked in,” Sexton explained.
“I’ll be back training fully next week. So all good to go.”
Warren Gatland’s Wales are first up.
While Ireland enjoyed plenty of success in 2022, the same cannot be said for Wales, and after nine losses in 12 test matches the decision was made to remove Wayne Pivac as head coach and reinstate Warren Gatland.
Sexton knows Gatland well, having played under the Kiwi coach on two British and Irish Lions tours, although he admitted that he doesn’t know what to expect from Wales’ new-look coaching team.
“I think it’ll give them a big lift having him back. Even the atmosphere around the first game will be up based on the fact that he’s back. The players will take great confidence from it,” Sexton said.
“How they’re going to play? It’s quite uncertain for us, isn’t it? They’ve got a new attack coach and a new defence coach so how they play, we’re going to be guessing a little bit.
“So we’re going to have to be adaptable and we’re probably going to have to focus on ourselves a lot, which is maybe a good thing. We know the players that they’ve got, the individuals that they have, we need to be on top of that of course.
“But in how they play, we need to be ready for a few different things.”
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) January 23, 2023
Johnny Sexton on Ireland’s number one ranking.
Ireland have been ranked as the world’s best side since claiming a test series victory against New Zealand last July, and are the bookies’ favourites to win this year’s Six Nations with home games against France and England.
Sexton has paid little heed to Ireland’s ranking or their favourites tag however, while noting that the team lived up to expectations with three wins from three in the Autumn Nations Series.
“We played in November with that target on our back, obviously they’re your words. People wanted to beat us but we got three good results so we’ve had a bit of experience in dealing with it,” Sexton commented.
“Our focus will be on trying to beat what we did last year in the Six Nations, trying to win the tournament. That’s what every country is going in trying to do.
“Where we rank in the world, the world rankings is not something you’d ever talk about as players. I’d much rather win the Six Nations and be fifth or sixth in the world than being number one.
“It doesn’t really matter for us, it’ll matter for maybe some of the younger guys that will get a World Cup draw for four years’ time. But for us it doesn’t matter.”