Jonathan Sexton could take time off to let his injuries heal properly
Joe Schmidt has revealed that Jonathan Sexton could take some time out of the game after his latest injury setback.
The Ireland out-half damaged his right hamstring in the defeat to New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium after struggling with his left hamstring in the lead-in to November series of games.
The 31-year-old has been plagued by a variety of injuries since touring with the Lions and moving to Racing 92 in 2013 and the latest issue could see the IRFU and Leinster agree to allow him some time off.
Whether the province share their former coach's view remains to be seen, given they are light on experience at out-half after Ian Madigan's departure. Leinster have four European pool games and two inter-provincial derbies before the Six Nations and ideally would like to have their playmaker available.
Although Ulster's Paddy Jackson deputised well on Saturday, Sexton remains the IRFU's top earner and the most important player in Schmidt's team.
Asked for an update on him and Robbie Henshaw, who was ruled out of Saturday's game as a result of the concussion he suffered against the All Blacks, the coach revealed he was considering giving Sexton a break.
"I'd like to think they're relatively short-term (injuries)," he said. "Robbie was pretty sore, he was pretty knocked about.
"Jonathan, I got asked does he need a window of time to make sure he can be more robust and that's probably one of the things that comes up for discussion.
"So some of those discussions will take place and we'll have a clearer picture after that."
It is not clear what Schmidt has in mind for Sexton. Mid-career sabbaticals have become a growing trend in rugby and Australia's David Pocock will take a year out of the game after playing England on Saturday.
More likely, Sexton will take a break and return for the Six Nations. Leinster will provide more clarity in the coming weeks.