By Phil Rice
Irish flyhalf Jonathan Sexton showed his bravery before being withdrawn for the final seven minutes of the deciding test.
If ever there was any doubt about the strength of Sexton’s commitment and bravery this was clearly demonstrated during the recent final test against New Zealand.
Since returning home Sexton has had a series of scans which have shown that a wrist injury that he received in the second test was actually a break. The ankle injury he sustained early in the third test was in fact a ruptured tendon.
The injury clearly hampered his activity during that match but such was his determination to see the match through, he continued until the 73rd minute when Ben Teo replaced the flyhalf.
Both injuries are now on the mend and surgery has not been necessary. This will come as a relief to Leinster Head Coach Leo Cullen who has already lost two key midfield backs, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose through injury, for the first 10 weeks of the season.
Sexton was a marked man during the final two tests in which he featured. All Black back row Jerome Kaino in particular gave the Irish flyhallf unrelenting attention during those matches, but not for the first time Sexton never flinched and played a key role in saving the series.
At 31 he still has ambitions of playing in the 2019 World Cup and despite competition from Paddy Jackson and Joey Carbery, it would be no surprise if the St. Mary’s man held off all challenges for the number 10 shirt.
The Pro12 will be increased to 14 teams this season with the introduction of the two South African provinces the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings, who have been ejected from the Super Rugby League in the Southern Hemisphere. This will add considerably to the appeal of the league and provide welcome competition against Southern Hemisphere opposition.
There will be two groups of seven teams within the league with each team playing each other home and away. In addition the local derby matches have all been retained.
The winners of each group would automatically qualify for the semi-finals, while the second and third teams will play off for the other two places.
Reports suggest that there are preliminary discussions taking place to possibly introduce teams representing the US and Canada to the Pro14 league in 2018-19.
This season’s expansion will provide the current Pro12 teams with a €500k bonus from TV rights and with additional gate receipts expected with the introduction of the South African sides, it should be a win-win situation.
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In the end there were no winners, or perhaps everyone was a winner after a memorable Test series between the Lions and New Zealand ended in stalemate.