Another year, another round of questioning about the French and their 'targeting' of Johnny Sexton. The only question left to ask is, at what point does it have to get to before officials are aware of what everyone knows is going to happen. And that's not just a bitter Irish perspective on things.
Writing in The Telegraph this morning, Daniel Schofield focussed attention upon the treatment of Ireland's out-half by the French players, drawing comparisons with Bountygate in NFL, where players with the New Orleans Saints were rewarded with bonuses for injuring opposition players.
Schofield claims that France have deliberately targeted Sexton in Irish games ever since he joined Racing Metro, pointing out that Sexton has been forced off injured in each of his last four appearances against France.
Schofield writes that Yoann Maestri should be banned for the rest of the tournament for the sly hit that was surely one of the most blatant yellow card offences you're likely to see.
What is really distasteful is the manner in which France have sought to hurt Sexton. Yoann Maestri should be banned for the rest of the Championship, not for the severity of his bodycheck on Sexton on Saturday but in its cynical execution well after he had passed the ball with the referee’s attention focused elsewhere.
It is a point most Irish fans will agree with, but to couch the hit in verbiage relating to lack of decency in a game seemingly committed to inflicting brain injury seems discordant.
The dangers of head injury was highlighted by Schofield later in the piece:
Sexton withstood other cheap shots before departing in the 69th minute. Given that Sexton has a long record of concussions, France’s methods are not just risking his career but his long-term health.
Rugby’s physicality is a large part of its appeal for both players and spectators, but France have crossed a line with its approach to Sexton which should shame everyone involved in its conception and execution.
Maestri may yet be cited and subsequently banned, but that is of little consolation to Sexton and Ireland this morning.