Ireland claim historic first victory in New Zealand

JOhnny Sexton insisted he was ‘fine’ and prepared to face New Zealand after going through concussion protocols ‘with flying colors’.

The veteran fly-half, who turns 37 on Monday, will captain Ireland in the second Test at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium despite leaving the field in the first half of the series opener last weekend .

Following a collision with Sam Cane, Sexton failed his first head injury assessment, known as HIA1, and did not return to the field.

Ireland had caused problems earlier, scoring a try through Keith Earls, but New Zealand pulled away with a flurry of counter-kick tries and eventually won 42-19.

After passing two subsequent HIAs on one of the days after the first test, which is enough to rule out a concussion under current regulations, Sexton remained in the starting lineup. He explained the situation on Thursday.

“You go for an HIA and you don’t come back, everyone assumes it’s a concussion, but it’s not,” he said.

“It’s just that if there’s a suspect [concussion] or if in doubt about the player. And obviously the independent doctor felt for some reason, my reaction to the hit or if it was a little thing or two in the test, but either way, that’s history now.

“I left for tests hoping to come back and I wasn’t cleared, which is fair enough, that’s what it’s there for. It’s there to protect the players if there’s a suspicion of a concussion, that they’re kept out of the way, and that’s what happened with the independent doctor.

“As frustrating as it was for me at the time, that’s just life. Yeah, move on, I did all the tests and obviously passed all of them with flying colors. I look forward to this week.

Although the incident prompted Progressive Rugby, the concussion campaign group, to criticize the HIA process, Sexton praised Ireland’s ‘great medical staff’.

In order to keep the streak alive, the tourists need to secure a first-ever away win against the All Blacks. Their captain, who beat New Zealand three times with Ireland and once with the British and Irish Lions in 2017, believes his side have had promising spells at Eden Park and are capable of forcing a decider in Wellington July 16.

“If you can win the second test, the momentum always comes back to you and you feel like you have the upper hand,” Sexton said.

“But we haven’t really talked about the show. It’s really about getting back on the horse and making sure we’re doing our best.

“We were happy with some of the things we did last week, but they’re pretty ruthless, aren’t they? We found out the hard way last Saturday.

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