Lions Coach’s Reason For Johnny Sexton Missing Out On Selection Shouldn’t Surprise Us

Durability.

Among the high-profile names to miss out on Lions selection this morning was Ireland captain Johnny Sexton but the reason he was overlooked really shouldn’t surprise us.

Question marks over the 35-year-olds fitness and durability have lingered over him for a number of years now as he enters his twilight years, and concerns are ultimately why he has missed out according to Lions coach Neil Jenkins.

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Sexton has been out for a number of weeks now with concussion problems and it’s rare these days he gets a string of games together in succession without some form of a break along the way.

An issue with Lions tours is the games come thick and fast and are compressed into a very small window. And the Lions need players that are durable in South Africa, a sentiment both head coach Warren Gatland and attack coach Gregor Townsend echoed in comments that are embargoed for now.

“Obviously, it’s very tough on Johnny,” Jenkins said.

“He’s a fantastic player. His goal-kicking in this Six Nations has been very, very good, the best I’ve seen him kick, off the floor especially,” Jenkins said this afternoon.

“I know he’s very good anyway, but he’s been exceptional in this Six Nations.

“Look it’s very, very tough. We’ve got Dan Biggar in Wales, Finn Russell, Owen Farrell and obviously Johnny. Someone was going to miss out and Finn missed out four years ago and this time, sadly, it’s Johnny.

“I don’t think it’s an easy way to go around it really. He’s a fantastic player and it’s very difficult to pick (from) the four of them and just sadly at this moment in time Johnny has missed out.”

“Obviously, there is a little bit of concern about the concussions and stuff like that, there’s no doubting that. But that’s obviously for the medical staff and the medical side of things and a little bit of durability.

“But look, he’s a fantastic player, I’m not questioning that whatsoever but it’s very difficult where we’re going with the physicality and presence we’re going to bring, and the other boys are very, very good themselves.

“So it was very difficult, whoever was going to miss out was going to be extremely disappointed and rightly so. Sadly, at this point in time, it’s Johnny. He’s a fantastic player and he’s been exceptional on the last two Lions tours that I’ve been on, he’s been very good with myself.

“I just see myself as a facilitator for these boys. They’re the best of the best when they turn up and we try to keep them doing the same stuff that they do whether it be with Ireland, Scotland, England, or Wales.

“He had a good Six Nations but the other guys did as well. Owen is a fantastic player and been there and done it himself. It’s not an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination.”