Rugby | 4 months ago
England legend makes crazy claim about Lions No10 as Johnny Sexton continues to train alone
Ballsy

The Six Nations, thus far, has passed Johnny Sexton by, so it was no surprise to see him training alone at Monaghan RFC on Friday.

As is now the tradition during Six Nations bye weeks, the IRFU uproot the whole international camp and take it on the road - spreading the rugby gospel to parts of the country that may not be considered hotbeds of the game.

Tommy Bowe may take issue with that description of his home turf and there was no disputing the crowds that turned out to watch Joe Schmidt's squad train ahead of Saturday week's clash with France at the Aviva.

It was not altogether encouraging sight greeting the people of Monaghan, with Sexton continuing his recovery separate from the squad and Conor Murray sidelined entirely.

Sexton has not featured at all against Scotland or Italy and it is far from certain he will be fit to start against France, with many asking if it would be wise to drop the in-form Paddy Jackson after a solid start to the tournament from the 25-year-old.

With such uncertainty swirling around Sexton, who has played only 460 minutes of rugby in an injury-interrupted season, it is no surprise to see him slip down the Lions pecking order.

Former England and Lions back Austin Healey has gone so far as to suggest the Number 10 jersey has already been filled, with one outstanding candidate "nailed on" to be Warren Gatland's starting out-half.

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Owen Farrell.

"Not only is Farrell nailed on, but I think he is nailed on at fly-half. I know Jonathan Sexton, Dan Biggar, Finn Russell and George Ford will have their supporters, but Farrell is a better all-round fly-half than all of them, even if he plays with 12 on his back," wrote Healey in his Daily Telegraph column.

The Saracens man has been fantastic for Eddie Jones, but many thought his spot on the Lions Test team would come at inside centre. However Healey is willing to start a conversation about Farrell as the greatest English out-half of all time.

That is to say, better than Jonny Wilkinson. Ballsy.

Wrong, but ballsy.

"The only observation I will make is that I never really thought that Jonny attacked the line that well. He took the ball to the line very well but he would do a double-foot step and distribute the ball wide. On occasions, Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall would ask for the ball a little bit earlier because he would bring the defensive line too far on to him.

"When Farrell attacks, he pushes the tackle line back because his shoulders are always square and he runs hard. I think that is the difference. What you can say is that Farrell now belongs in that conversation of great fly-halves."

Farrell is dominant on a dominant team, which is different from commanding an under pressure Lions side against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Is Sexton a better man for the job? Possibly. Will Sexton regain fitness in time to put himself in the frame? Who knows...

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS TEST SPECIAL!

Click play [below] for the latest episode of The Hard Yards rugby podcast, with Stephen Ferris, Kevin McLaughlin and Isaac Boss joining host Andy McGeady and SportsJOE's Pat McCarry.

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Ireland, Lions 2017, Johnny Sexton, owen farrell, Austin Healey