Bagshot – England coach Eddie Jones said he had no problems with the side targeting Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton when the teams meet in the Six Nations on Saturday.
Sexton, Ireland’s key playmaker, was on the receiving end of some rough treatment during the defending champions’ 10-9 defeat by France and appeared dazed come full-time in Paris.
The Leinster flyhalf was stood down from rugby for 12 weeks in late 2014 after suffering four concussions inside 12 months and has since had several more concerning head injuries.
But Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was adamant nothing as serious as concussion had taken place at the Stade de France, saying Sexton’s latest blow was “neck and shoulder, more of a whiplash injury”.
But Jones, speaking after unveiling his team to play Ireland at England’s Bagshot training base on Thursday, questioned Schmidt’s decision to make public those details about Sexton’s condition.
“Sexton is an interesting one, they’ve talked about him having whiplash injury which is not a great thing to talk about,” he said.
“I’m sure his mother and father would be worried about that. Hopefully, the lad’s all right on Saturday to play,” the Australian added.
There is a belief that if you stop Sexton you go a long way to neutralising the attacking threat of an injury-hit defending Six Nations champions Ireland, a side now adjusting to life without two retired greats in both Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell.
While France’s treatment of Sexton was criticised in some quarters, Jones was adamant there was nothing intrinsically wrong in going after a team’s star men.
“We target players all the time. That’s part of rugby is it not?” Jones said.
“There are 15 players out there. Are we supposed to not run at one player? Hang on, hang on, he’s got a red dot on his head, we don’t run at him,” the former Australia and Japan coach added ahead of his first home game in charge of England.
“Rugby’s a game of 15 players on the field. When we’re attacking, we’re attacking weak defenders. Why would we run at the strongest defender?
“We are not going to run at their strongest defenders, we’ll always run at their weakest.
“I’m not saying Sexton is a weak defender. Maybe France did. We’re going to be targeting players in the Ireland side.
“We want to win and you win a game of rugby by attacking their weak points and to say that’s unfair is just ridiculous.”