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03rd Jun 2017

Off-colour Jonny Sexton replaced by Owen Farrell and world jumps to conclusions

Early days, everybody

Mikey Stafford

Jonny Sexton was not the only Lion to play like a drain in Whangerei.

Outside of Toby Faletau, it was hard to pick a starter who made a convincing case for selection against the Provincial Barbarians.

There were missed tackles, fluffed try-scoring opportunities and poor set-pieces. They may have won but that is the very least that was expected against the worst team they will face on this Tour.

Leinster and Ireland out-half Sexton and Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw struggled to control the game, the 10 missed his first kick at goal and was receiving treatment when Laidlaw kicked the Lions’ first points in a disappointing second half.

Three points was not what Sexton would have expected to take from this game, nor would he have expected to have misplaced as many passes or gained only eight metres in a poor performance.

He did make nine tackles, missing none, during his 49 minutes on the pitch but the sight Owen Farrell making an immediate impact -playing a hand in the build-up to Anthony Watson’s try and converting brilliantly from the sideline – had lots of people declaring the battle for the role of Test 10 done and dusted on Day 1.

Farrell has had a great season for Saracens and, as a 12, for England, but Sexton was the starting 10 for Warren Gatland’s series-winning Tour four years ago, he has proven himself time and again for Ireland and Leinster and, on form, is the most complete fly-half in the Northern Hemisphere.

Admittedly he is not in form, but he has a few weeks and games against top class opposition to get into the groove and there is no chance Gatland will give up on such a class player so quickly.

Lots of people are writing off the Dubliner, however.

Some sense being spoken…

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