"He's become a threat again" - Ronan O'Gara on Johnny Sexton's third coming 6 months ago

"He's become a threat again" - Ronan O'Gara on Johnny Sexton's third coming

It was a tough call then, and it looked wrong then, too.

It was around this time last year that rugby fans in Ireland were asking aloud, and on every form of social media they could log into, why the hell Johnny Sexton was not in the British & Irish Lions squad.

Advertisement

James Ryan missing out was tough. Josh van der Flier and Garry Ringrose missing out were two more hard pills to swallow. Johnny Sexton taking the summer off while the Lions went to South Africa - that was lunacy.

Sexton had been superb for Ireland in the 2021 Six Nations but Warren Gatland was not shy in telling everyone that he doubted if the outhalf could play three Test matches on consecutive weekends. 12 months on and Gatland could still use that argument and feel he was on solid ground.

This season, with Leinster's large squad putting them in a position to compete for trophies on both fronts, Sexton has been flying. He does not have to start each game, and he is delivering for Leinster and Ireland when they need him. He was very good last season, he has kept up that level, this season, but avoided any long spells on the sidelines.

Turning 37 in six weeks, Ronan O'Gara, his former Ireland outhalf rival, explains why the veteran 10 is still at the top of his game.

Advertisement

"First of all he’s a great competitor and he loves rugby," he said. "People forget that. Rugby is such a great game so you play it for as long as you can. If you’re good you keep going and he’s outstaying the rest in his position comfortably."

Johnny Sexton

Ronan O'Gara on Johnny Sexton's Lions "hurt"

There is a narrative out there - that Johnny Sexton has upped his game in the past season - but he has been superb this past two years [after the 2019 struggles and Covid delays].

Advertisement

For O'Gara - a former rival and now firm friend - he feels that Lions disappointment has forced him to up his running, attacking game.

"That would have hurt him deeply. So now it’s another example of his excellent resilience and now he’s coming back.

"I think he’s made changes to his game. He’s always been a good passer of the ball but now he’s become a threat again, which he may have put on the back burner. But you saw against Toulouse, he has a very good running game, a good passing game, a good kicking game and he’s very good at seeing the opportunity before other people see it.

"That’s what a lot of great 10s do, and he sees things quicker than other people and he’s able to manipulate his attackers and defenders into space because they’ve got great cohesion amongst them."

In Ireland and in France, Johnny Sexton is a living legend. The way he is spoken about, abroad, is almost in loftier terms than he is, back home.

If he can add a fifth European Cup medal to his armoury, it is merely an extra gust of air in his balloon.

Advertisement