herald

Thursday 21 March 2019

Sexton signs up

Ireland out-half available for 2021 Lions

Photo: Sportsfile
Photo: Sportsfile

Should Joe Schmidt be interested in taking the British and Irish Lions to South Africa in 2021, Jonathan Sexton will have his hand up to go along.

Unsurprisingly, the 2018 World Player of the Year has signed an IRFU three-year contract extension to the summer of 2021.

It will also come as the first signal that Sexton has every confidence in Andy Farrell maintaining Ireland's current high standing in the game as the number-two ranked nation in the world.

Really, there was little or no chance of Sexton leaving his province Leinster, especially in light of how the high-profile move to Racing 92 in the Top-14 evolved over two seasons (2013-2015).

"I am delighted to sign a new IRFU contract to continue to play for Leinster and Ireland," stated Sexton.

"It is where I have always wanted to play so I am delighted to extend. We get looked after extremely well here and it is an exciting time for Irish rugby. I am looking forward to hopefully being a part of that over the next few years."

In fact, it has been the influence of Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster that has the 33-year-old contemplating playing into his 40s.

"When Stuart came to Leinster, he introduced me to Tom Brady," said Sexton in August.

"I wasn't a big American football fan but he got me to watch the documentaries on this guy and I started to follow him.

"Now I've got a mild obsession with him. "I want to play until I'm 40, so I'm doing a lot of the stuff he does."

The magical 40-mark does seem like a real stretch.

Afterall, the NFL has instituted new rules this season to further protect the quarterback as something of an endangered species.

There are no such privileges afforded to out-halfs, like Sexton, who are regularly targeted as a tactic for undermining game plans.

But, like Brady, this is no ordinary player.

"For me it's all about keeping my body in as good shape as I can," he explained in August.

Struggled

"The times I've struggled over the years have been when I've been injured, trying to play through niggles where you can't fully commit mentally to the game.

"You're worried about a hamstring or a calf, if it's going to go, or if it's a sore shoulder 'how can I make a tackle?'

"If you go into a game with worries over your body, I don't think you can perform to your level."

A calf problem forced Sexton off in the final quarter against Bath at The Recreation Ground last weekend.

This commitment not to play through injury, to make his body a temple, suggests Ross Byrne could well start at fly-half against Bath at the Aviva this Saturday evening.

For the record, Sexton had to work his way through the Irish system.

He was forced to wait for longer than he would have liked behind Felipe Contepomi at Leinster and Ronan O'Gara for Ireland.

He debuted for Ireland in November of 2009, six months after stepping in to drive Leinster to their first European Cup earlier that year.

Sexton has been the driving force behind four European titles, reviving the province on his return from France.

There have also been the two Six Nations titles in 2014 and 2015 and the Grand Slam in 2018.

Sexton's arrival into the Lions test shirt was the key to drawing the test series in New Zealand.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News