"Where Johnny Sexton is so important to us now is being able to pass the baton" 1 month ago

"Where Johnny Sexton is so important to us now is being able to pass the baton"

"We've got our Carberys and Cartys, the two Byrnes at Leinster. We've even got Ben Healy."

Should Johnny Sexton feature against Japan on November 6, or in either of the subsequent Tests against New Zealand or Argentina, he will earned Ireland cap 100. It is a remarkable achievement, even as many are wondering how many more caps will come after that.


Right now, Sexton is at the top of Ireland's outhalf mountain. Others have been getting sniffs, but Sexton should in the 2021 Six Nations that he will take some shifting. When he plays, he threatens the defensive line more by pushing up more, making darts and putting runners on lines into soft shoulders.

The argument between sticking with Sexton or blooding possible replacements depends on how much you want to see Ireland give themselves their best shot at a World Cup. If immediacy of success is your thing, most would go for Sexton. If you want to get beyond another quarter final, Sexton takes a back seat.

On the latest House of Rugby URC episode [LISTEN from 33:40 below], there was a lively debate about how much, or sparingly, Sexton should be used by Andy Farrell, and on alternatives for the 10 jersey.

Robert Baloucoune is congratulated by Ireland team-mate Joey Carbery (left) after scoring against the USA at the Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Harry Byrne and Billy Burns both got game-time for Ireland during the summer while Joey Carbery started in the wins over Japan and the USA. Sexton, we were told by Andy Farrell, was fully cleared to play but was given the summer off after he missed out on the British & Irish Lions.


Ross Byrne is still an option, with Test experience, Ben Healy is doing well for Munster with whatever chances he is earning and Jack Carty reminded Farrell what he could do with a Man of the Match performance for Connacht, on Saturday.

Asked by host Jason Hennessy if Sexton should be starting each Ireland game in November, Lindsay Peat replied, "No."

"Not in my opinion," the Leinster and Ireland women's star said, "because where Johnny Sexton is so important to us now is being able to pass the baton...

"What we need to do is manage him so he's not injured as much, and then have him in these squads so he's able to help these new players come along and transition - pass on all his experience and knowledge. Exactly like when he came on the scene with Ronan O'Gara. You are clocking heads, but you're getting the best out of the player. You can then utilise the competitiveness to get the best for Ireland.

"For Johnny's longevity and for us to get the best out of him, I do think we need to manage him a little bit more. Yes, involve him in the autumn games, but don't involve him in all of them - starting him and giving him lots of minutes.

"His hip flexor [injury] looks like it could be a loading issue. We need to keep him as long as we can, but we need to manage him. That won't bring a smile to his face, but that's what we should do."

Ronan O'Gara and Johnny Sexton battled for the starting Ireland outhalf spot from 2009 to 2013, when the Munster star retired. (Credit: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE)

A chunk of chips have been pushed in behind Carbery, who is back playing regularly again after being plagued with ankle and wrist issues for two years. The 25-year-old has 24 Ireland caps and career wins over New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina to his name.

That noted, his only big start against a heavyweight side was against Australia in 2018. If Ireland are looking to see if Carbery has what it takes, starting him in at least one of the three Tests should tell us all more.

He certainly will not smile at being asked to sit out at least one starting role, this November, but Sexton will be 38 by the time the next World Cup rolls around.

If he needs advice on how to play that elder outhalf statesman - but one who still backs himself to start and finish - he can give O'Gara a call.