herald

Sunday 22 July 2018

Sexton targets spot on the 2021 lions tour

Leinster flanker Van der Flier aims to become an indisposable asset

Lion-hearted: Jonathan Sexton in action for the British & Irish Lions during the Third Test against New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland in July of last year
Lion-hearted: Jonathan Sexton in action for the British & Irish Lions during the Third Test against New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland in July of last year

No man can escape the inevitable call from father time, not even Jonathan Sexton.

With the best will in the world, the 32-year-old is a lot closer to the end of his career than the beginning.

Nonetheless, the Ireland out-half is already looking beyond the 2019 Rugby World Cup to the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021.

"I suppose the long-term goals are another World Cup and to try and get on a third Lions tour," he said, while promoting Supertroopers, a health homework programme for kids.

"I would be 35. As an out-half, it wouldn't be a crazy age to get picked.

Super-trooper: Johnny Sexton with pupils of Scoil Maelruain, Old Bawn, Tallaght at the launch of Super Troopers with Laya Healthcare. For more information visit supertroopers.ie
Super-trooper: Johnny Sexton with pupils of Scoil Maelruain, Old Bawn, Tallaght at the launch of Super Troopers with Laya Healthcare. For more information visit supertroopers.ie

Challenge

"Obviously, there are a lot of young guys coming through and trying to stay ahead of them would be the big challenge."

Unsurprisingly, Sexton is not inclined to rest on the achievement of a Grand Slam with Ireland and or even what might be in The Champions Cup final next week.

"Trying to keep improving is the big motivation for me," he said.

"I think there's a lot more in me and, hopefully, I can keep improving over the next number of years in my career."

The Dubliner has turned to American Football's living legend Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback for an edge.

"Stuart Lancaster has got me obsessed with Tom Brady and I didn't know who he was until about a year ago," said Sexton.

"Stuart has got me convinced I'm going to play until I'm 40 now and my wife (Laura) has gone mad," he added.

"I'm reading up on him and trying to figure out how to prolong my career for as long as possible."

In the meantime, Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier is working his way back from knee surgery with a return to play date sometime in September.

It must have been gutting to have to watch Ireland complete the Grand Slam without him.

He resisted the temptation to make the trip to Twickenham.

Worse again, when the flanker was crocked, his direct replacement Dan Leavy came to the fore as a real difference maker for his country.

The time away has given Van der Flier the space to realise how quickly things can change.

For example, Jordi Murphy will leave Leinster for Ulster in the summer even though he is playing better than ever for his province.

"It is always sad when lads are moving on," he said.

"We knew Jordi was leaving at the end of the season," he stated.

"But, it hadn't really registered with me until our Awards ball last week.

"You never really want anyone to leave.

"As a Leinster player and fan as well, you want all the players playing if they can.

"If we could have a squad of 100 and just keep everyone it would be handy enough.

"From my perspective, we want everyone to stay.

"But, it doesn't work out like that."

The move of Murphy and the possible exit of Joey Carbery means almost everyone is expendable.

Afterall, players are disposable assets with a limited shelf life in a brutal business.

"You do find yourself thinking those things," said the flanker.

"What if I was in that situation? It is something you only really know when you are in that situation, what your emotions are, what it feels like," he added.

"Everyone in Leinster and in every province wants to be at the stage where you're playing really well and you're starting and you're so good that they can't drop you and they can't let you go. That's what everyone aims for."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News