Johnny Sexton faces potential ban which could hamper World Cup preparations

Johnny Sexton faces potential ban which could hamper World Cup preparations

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton could see his World Cup preparations hampered after misconduct complaints were lodged following his behaviour towards match officials in the wake of Leinster's Heineken Champions Cup final defeat by La Rochelle.

Leinster suffered a heartbreaking 27-26 loss to the French club at the Aviva Stadium on May 20.

Sexton, 37, did not play in the match in Dublin after suffering a groin injury during the Guinness Six Nations victory over England, which brought his season to an early end and required surgery.

However, following the end of the game - which Leinster had led 23-7 on the half-hour mark - Sexton came onto the pitch and became involved in what appeared to be a heated exchange with South African referee Jaco Peyper and the other match officials.

On Thursday, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) issued a statement confirming misconduct complaints had now been submitted following "thorough fact finding and careful review" of Sexton's actions and also Leinster for not exercising reasonable control over their player.

Veteran fly-half Sexton is set to retire after the World Cup in France later this year, and if the independent disciplinary panel - which will hear the case on July 13 - issues a substantial ban, his involvement in Ireland's preparations could be affected.

A statement from the EPCR read: "Misconduct complaints against the Leinster Rugby player, Johnny Sexton, and against Leinster Rugby, arising from the Heineken Champions Cup final on Saturday May 20 2023, have been lodged by EPCR.

"After thorough fact finding and careful review of Johnny Sexton's behaviour towards match officials after the match, in accordance with EPCR regulations, the EPCR disciplinary officer has submitted misconduct complaints so that an independent disciplinary panel can determine whether any misconduct has been committed by Mr Sexton (through his behaviour) and Leinster (through failing to exercise reasonable control over Mr Sexton).

"The complaints were referred to the chairman of the independent disciplinary panel, who has appointed Christopher Quinlan KC (England, Chair), Adam Casselden SC (Australia) and Marcello D'Orey (Portugal) as the independent disciplinary committee to hear the case and consider whether misconduct took place.

"The hearing will take place by video conference, on July 13. EPCR will be making no further comment."

Ireland have three warm-up fixtures on the horizon, including against England in Dublin on August 19.

Andy Farrell's men begin their World Cup campaign against Romania on September 9 at Stade de Bordeaux, with South Africa, Scotland and Tonga also in Pool B.