Ireland's Sexton cleared for second Test, All Blacks lose Whitelock

Sexton left the field after taking a blow to the head 30 minutes into the first Test, won by the All Blacks 42-19, and when the playmaker did not return it was assumed he had failed his HIA.

Johnny Sexton of Ireland receives medical attention for his injury during the rugby Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Ireland at Eden Park in Auckland on 2 July 2022. Picture: MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP

DUNEDIN - Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has been cleared to play in the second Test against the New Zealand, according to assistant coach Mike Catt after confusion about the fly-half's head injury assessment (HIA) in the first Test.

But the All Blacks were dealt a blow when delayed concussion ruled veteran lock Sam Whitelock out of the Dunedin rematch on Saturday.

Sexton left the field after taking a blow to the head 30 minutes into the first Test, won by the All Blacks 42-19, and when the playmaker did not return it was assumed he had failed his HIA.

A World Rugby crackdown on head injuries requires players with concussion symptoms to be rested for a compulsory 12 days.

But Catt told reporters on Tuesday that Sexton had passed two subsequent tests and was available to play.

"Johnny is fit, Johnny passed every test that he needed to pass, so from my point of view he's good to go," he said.

Catt also had a word of sympathy for the All Blacks saying it was a "big blow" to lose Whitelock, one of the stars of their first Test victory in Auckland.

"Sam has played some amazing games and is a brilliant rugby player but we’re under no illusions - the next person stepping in is not that far behind Sam," he said.

Whitelock's absence will force a reshuffle of the New Zealand pack with Scott Barrett likely to move from blindside flanker to his more familiar role as a lock.

Seasoned second-row forward Patrick Tuipulotu, who only recently returned from playing in Japan, had been rushed into the New Zealand squad.

All Blacks reserve lock Tupou Vaa'i is also out after becoming the latest member of the New Zealand entourage to test positive for Covid-19.

"Sammy was awesome at the weekend and became the second most capped All Black of all time, which is hugely impressive," said captain Sam Cane.

"We'll no doubt miss his leadership and what he brings, and then Tupou had been playing well all Super Rugby and was hanging out for his opportunity, so it's a tough pill for him to swallow."

Backs David Havili, Jack Goodhue and Will Jordan have been cleared to resume full training with the squad after all testing positive for Covid last week.

The third and final Test is in Wellington on 16 July.