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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Sexton struggles to get past fall-out of world cup

Out-half knows it's win or bust at Bath this week

Jonathan Sexton looks relaxed during Leinster training
Jonathan Sexton looks relaxed during Leinster training

Honesty is the only policy for Jonathan Sexton.

The party political line is not one pushed by Leo Cullen or towed by the players.

This allows for varied opinions on the same subject, quite simply because people feel the same picture with a different internal eye.

Defence coach Kurt McQuilkin and flanker Jordi Murphy dismissed the ramifications from the Rugby World Cup exit as a reason for Leinster's uncharacteristic slump to Wasps.

Not so Sexton.

Is there a hangover? "It is tough to get over (the World Cup)," he offered.

"For me, personally, it was probably the biggest disappointment of my career to come off the pitch in that France game, having felt I had worked so hard.

"I felt I was coming into a really good place, physically and mentally."

Ireland went from no injuries to having the spine ripped out of their team.

"It was going to be a really good time for me and the team," he recalled.

"Then, to miss the guts of that French game and then the Argentina game and watch it all just crumble, I suppose, definitely took a while to get over.

"Then, I had to rehab the groin and get over a bit of a chest infection.

"I am still working back to finding a bit of form and rhythm.

"Maybe, there are a few guys there in that boat."

It sounds like Sexton is one of them.

Indeed, the out-half revealed the first time he yanked on a Leinster training jersey this season was during the lead-in to Treviso, just over three weeks back.

"So yeah, still trying to bed into the new environment," he said.

"The coaches have been doing a great job.

"We thought we were going along pretty nicely considering the amount of players we've had away.

"We got the two good results in the last couple of Guinness PRO12 games, in terms of getting five points away to Treviso, and then beating a dogged Scarlets team here, who were top of the League."

It could just have been that they needed their wake-up call in the PRO12, not the unforgiving format of the Champions Cup.

"We thought we were in a good place and maybe that was half the problem," he conceded.

"We maybe thought it was just going to click into place at the weekend and it certainly didn't."

The man who is well-known for being hard on those around him is hardest on himself.

"They are all excuses," he noted.

"What we produced on Sunday wasn't good enough in probably every aspect.

"You can start at the set-piece, a lot of lineouts, a lot of scrums.

"Some decision-making, some handling errors, bad passing, a few kicks. You know what I mean?

"It just all adds up, snowballs, and it turned into a disastrous day."

The way Scarlets took Northampton to the wire (15-11) at Franklins Gardens on Saturday and the way the Ospreys deconstructed Exeter Chiefs at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday showed it was not a PRO12 problem - it was a Leinster problem.

"Yeah, that's it. There were parts of our game that just didn't function and parts of our game that did function.

"We're trying to play under a new structure and a new game-plan and I suppose parts of that were way off.

"We were not exactly as accurate as we were hoping to be.

"Parts of that is knowledge and then other parts are being mentally prepared and being ready to win collisions and to win those 50-50s that often decide games.

"Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of those at the weekend."

There is the action, or inaction in this case, and there is the reaction at the Recreation Ground this Saturday.

"Hopefully, we can be a hell of a lot better this week because if we're not, we're not gonna be far from out of the competition.

"Last year, teams obviously qualified out of the pool winning four games and having lost their first two.

"But, with the pool that we're in, we really need a result this week."

Or else, it is over for another season.

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