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Monday 24 July 2017

Sexton: We have come a long way

Out-half believes in Leinster again

The Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Camps were launched by Leinster Rugby stars Jonathon Sexton, Sean O’Brien and Jack McGrath at a pop up training session in St Mary’s National
School, Ranelagh yesterday. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
The Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Camps were launched by Leinster Rugby stars Jonathon Sexton, Sean O’Brien and Jack McGrath at a pop up training session in St Mary’s National School, Ranelagh yesterday. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Everyone else has parked it, moved on, in the outward, forward-looking expression of Leinster's 'next job' mentality.

Not Jonathan Sexton.

"When you lose a semi-final it's probably the hardest match to lose because you get so close to that final, that occasion.

"All the young guys and the older guys need to take lessons from it.

"And come back stronger for the rest of this season and next season."

The gears of competitiveness are always grinding away in the out-half's head.

It is always accompanied by naked honesty.

The disastrous start was "the difference between us winning that game and losing.

"We wouldn't be talking about the first hour, we would be talking about a great comeback."

It must all be stored away for next season and the ongoing pursuit of their fourth stand on the podium for champions.

"There is a fine line whether you go really hard on guys or else you say, 'look guys we are not that far away and next time we have to make sure we are on the right side of those calls.'

"A couple of refereeing calls, a touch judge coming in for a penalty, you don't give them a chance to do that.

"It's very hard the psychology of that. You leave that up to the coaches.

"You have a role to play as vice-captain, you need to get that right, to know when guys need to be told that wasn't good enough as opposed to look guys we need to take positives from this and build on it."

This is where the mature Sexton can talk of his wrong turns and how to get on the track to trophies.

"That can be a turning point for us," he stated.

"It was one of them rather than it's not acceptable to start like that because no one went out with the wrong frame of mind.

"They went out mentally and physically in a great place, but we just didn't manage to start the game right."

Last year, Sexton couldn't contain his disappointment at how Leinster had "slipped" since he departed in the summer of 2013.

It was not the club he left for Racing in Paris and that would have hurt deeply.

This year, this has been replaced by a complete contrast in form and style and content.

"Look, we have come a long way," he said.

"We don't need results as such to show how far we've come.

"It's pretty obvious internally and it's pretty obvious to you guys (media) how far we've come.

"Where we want success is for ourselves, for the effort that we've put in throughout the year, from day one, the amount of sacrifice that goes into it.

"That's why you want to win," he added.

There is still the carrot of the PRO12 League which would be a considerable consolation for what happened in Lyon.

"In terms of showing how far we've come, I think we've shown that.

"That's not being arrogant or anything like that.

"It's just we have come a long way in the environment, the culture, the attitude everything."

Sexton won't stop believing Leinster can be back on top in Europe.

"It feels like back to the days when we were winning European Cups for fun.

"I remember walking around after we won three in four years, and it was easy.

"It felt like, 'we've got this cracked now, it's going to be like this every year.'

"Five years later, you're still waiting to get into another final," insisted.

"It just shows what a special competition it is to win, and I suppose how special that team was as well to win three in four.

"It's only now that you look back and go, "wow, that was pretty special."

They call it the winning feeling. It is one Sexton has not had in the Six Nations since 2015, the European Cup since 2012 and the PRO12 League since 2013.

The out-half does not buy into the theory of needing to lose one to win one.

"I don't think you always have to go through losses to be successful.

"I don't believe in that. But, a lot of teams do have to," he said.

"You look at Saracens now and the finals they lost, Munster before they won their first one, Leinster before they won theirs.

"There was plenty of heartbreak along the way that drives you."

Sexton doesn't need to lose to have to win.

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