"I'd take the gamble" - Johne Murphy makes great World Cup point about Johnny Sexton 3 weeks ago

"I'd take the gamble" - Johne Murphy makes great World Cup point about Johnny Sexton

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For everyone that fears Johnny Sexton playing Tonga, a former Munster star makes a good case for starting him again, this weekend.


On Thursday, Andy Farrell will name his Ireland team to face Tonga in their second Group B game of the World Cup. Most of us will dart our eyes to the No.10 call in the starting XV, to see if Johnny Sexton will start.

Whatever the plans Farrell and his coaching staff had for Sexton in this World Cup, that piece of paper was scrunched up and tossed away after his three-game ban. Sexton has gone from needing to be managed to chomping at the bit for as much game-time possible.

On House of Rugby [LISTEN from 11:30 below] Johne Murphy and Peter Stringer spoke with host Maire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill about Ireland's big selection calls for Tonga.


When to go easy on Johnny Sexton

Peter Stringer believes this is the strongest Ireland squad ever, at a World Cup, and that Andy Farrell can mix and match more than previous coaches he played under, such as Warren Gatland, Eddie O'Sullivan and Declan Kidney.


"I think that's a massive driver in this squad," he said, "that there's no set starting 15, and everyone feels that they're on a par with their peers."

Johne Murphy, who played at Munster with Stringer, feels there will be some 'horses for courses' selections for the Tonga game and named the following players as good starting options:

  • Josh van der Flier (an "out and out 7")
  • Iain Henderson ("add a bit of bulk" and experience to the second row)
  • Jack Conan (would "hopefully be at least on the bench against South Africa")
  • Jimmy O'Brien ("might be in 23 all the time because of his versatility")

The big conversation, then, will be whether Johnny Sexton starts against Tonga. He is expected to miss out on one of the starting XVs during the pool stage, but that may rest upon how the next two games plays out.


Stringer points out that Sexton has shown, on many occasions over the years, that he 'can take a week off and still perform at his best'.

"I think the week off between South Africa (September 23) and Scotland (October 5) games allows them to rest Sexton... I'd be more comfortable getting that back-up player more game-time when we face Tonga."

While Stringer would side with taking Sexton out of the line of Tongan fire, Murphy makes a valid point about giving the veteran outhalf another start, and another one after that. He commented:

"I'd start Johnny Sexton... I'd take a gamble and have Johnny [start] three in a row."

"If you look at it," Murphy added, "if we get to a quarter final - Johnny would have to go five games in a row [to the final]. But if he can play two-and-a-half, three games then take a week off [against Scotland], he is then set up for a quarter final, semi, and final. If he can have a break in the middle, it is a big risk but it's worth a go."

"You know he wants to play," said Stringer, "but it's then about what happens if he is injured? You need time for Ross or Jack (to play). There's a balance there."



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