Johnny Sexton explains why he might be in career best form
Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton may have taken one step closer to a maiden World Rugby Player of the Year award following Ireland's 16-9 win over New Zealand on Saturday.
Sexton was excellent against the All Blacks and is nominated for World Rugby's top individual honour this year alongside New Zealand's Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane as well as South African duo Malcolm Marx and Faf de Klerk.
Sexton was previously nominated for the award in 2014 but ultimately lost out to New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick.
It's hard to tell if this is the best form of his career or not given the heights of his previous peaks - 2011 Heineken Cup final, 2013 Lions tour, 2014 Six Nations - but Sexton believes his form this year is directly tied to his ability to stay on the pitch.
"I want to keep getting better," Sexton said recently at a MACE digital launch.
"I believe that you can continue to get better into your thirties. Physcially, I feel good and I've said this before that when physcially I feel good, generally, other parts of my game flow a lot better because I get the preparation on the pitch.
"I get the training time. I get the practice time, sometimes people don't see the preparations where you have bad games where you don't train all week and suddenly you're expected to perform.
"They can be the times where it's difficult and you're still expected to go out and do a job for the team and you can come unstuck yourself.
"I've been lucky over the last 18 months that I've basically been able to get on the pitch a lot with training time and do okay and I hope that I can continue to get better."
Sexton is part of a wave of athletes entering their mid-thirties that are still performing at exceptionally high levels.
Both LeBron James in basketball and Cristiano Ronaldo in football are probably the most high profile examples of this case but Sexton believes that while experience and repetition does count, preparation is still the most important aspect to him.
"It could be a mixture of both timing and repetition but I think for me again it's about staying fit and staying healthy.
"When you're playing you're not playing with a load of niggles and just getting through games from game to game. It's about trying to get better physically over a number of weeks.
"Of course, experience will help, but I think the preparation time is probably more important for me."
Former British & Irish Lions Jamie Heaslip and Ugo Monye both said that Sexton deserves the World Player of the Year award this year after helping Ireland to a Grand Slam, a win over New Zealand as well as European and PRO14 titles with Leinster.
If Sexton doesn’t win World Player of the year now it’s Bollox
— ugo monye (@ugomonye) November 17, 2018
Surely Sexton has to take the top title of World Player of the Year now!!!
— jamie heaslip (@jamieheaslip) November 18, 2018