Jonathan Sexton faces a race to be fit for Ireland’s autumn internationals after the fly-half suffered a broken jaw during Racing Metro’s victory over reigning French champions Racing Metro.
The regular Irish Number 10 faces a two month spell on the sidelines after picking up the facial injury in a nasty collision with Toulon hooker Craig Burden during Saturday’s encounter, which saw the Parisian side run out surprise 17-10 winners over last season’s Top 14 and Heineken Cup double winners.
With Ireland set to begin their autumn program on 8 November when South Africa visit the Aviva Stadium, meaning Sexton could return for the clash having played no rugby ahead of the tie against the hard-hitting Southern Hemisphere side.
The challenge from Burden saw the South African sent to the sin-bin and has caused a stir across both the channel and the Irish Sea, as Sexton will be absent for Racing’s opening Rugby Champions Cup fixtures against Northampton Saints and Benetton Treviso.
Following the Springbok encounter, Ireland face both Georgia and Australia in Dublin, but head coach Joe Schmidt will be concerned when the possible loss of one of his most experienced back-line options now the talismanic Brian O’Driscoll has retired.
Sexton has won 45 caps for his nation as well as helping to guide the British and Irish Lions to success against the Wallabies via the 2-1 series victory Down Under last year, and Schmidt is likely to risk Sexton should he be available for the opening clash with South Africa.
The 29-year-old didn’t enjoy the best of debut seasons in the Top 14 last time out, and the belief is that he will return to his former provincial side Leinster at the end of the season – which will come just months before the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Ulster’s Paddy Jackson would be the likely deputy should Sexton fall short of fitness, having provided cover for him since the retirement of the long-serving fly-half Ronan O’Gara – now a coach at Racing.
Munster duo Ian Keatley and JJ Hanrahan are also putting up their hands for inclusion in Schmidt’s squad, with Leinster’s Ian Madigan at risk of losing his place altogether. The highly-rated fly-half, who can also play at centre, started the weekend 10-7 defeat to Ulster on the bench. Madigan came on to replace Jimmy Gopperth at the break, and should Sexton return to his homeland with the reigning Pro12 champions, one of the former two is likely to be on the lookout for a new club.Reuse content