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'Johnny Sexton can play until he's 50! There is no one else' | Matt Williams

Thom Malone
Thom Malone

17:48 3 Dec 2020


Matt Williams joined Wednesday Night Rugby on Off The Ball where the Australian coach suggested that despite his age Johnny Sexton is in a strong negotiating position with the IRFU.

In a wide-ranging chat Williams questioned several aspects of the Ireland setup tactically and how they move forward.

"What are they going to do about the nine and ten situations?" asked the former Leinster coach.

"The way the other tens are playing Johnny Sexton can sign another contract and play until he's 40. That's because there is no one else to take his place.

"Johnny is not getting any better, he's getting older. it's just the way for all of us, it's not a criticism of Johnny - he's one of Ireland's all-time greats - but none of us get better once we are past the age of 32 or 33.

"You are hanging on, you are in a little bit of decline with pace. The other thing is because Ireland are playing the same way, teams have figured us out - it's stop Sexton, stop Ireland.

"That Georgian game was a lost opportunity. I know they blooded some new guys, often that affects the continuity but you didn't come out of that game feeling that the team had progressed."

'Johnny Sexton can play until he's 50'

Apart from some water carrying duties, Sexton wasn't part of the Georgia debacle.

He was not required but the thinking is he is very much needed on bigger days but not as captain, according to Williams.

"I got a text from an unnamed player," said Williams, protecting his source, "it just said 'Johnny can play until he's 50!' There is no one else.

"Maybe he should, he's still very fit, very healthy, Johnny is not playing poorly. The leadership is a different thing though.

"I think the leadership of James Ryan needs to be encouraged and brought through, that's essential. I think the captaincy time for Johnny is over.

"He was rewarded with the captaincy for his loyalty but I don't think he's a great captain, yes, he's a leader. Just the fact he lost his temper getting substituted.

"You can't come out on the Friday and praise the coaching team then on Saturday when you get substituted do your 'nana.

"Not everyone is a captain, but that doesn't take away from Johnny's leadership. I do think it's time for a new captain."

While Sexton is clearly Ireland's best out-half, and appears to have a strong case in contract negotiations, Williams highlighted external issues which will weaken that case.

"The thing that Johnny has to deal with and all players have to deal with during the COVID era is, there will be haircuts," said the Australian coach.

"They are not going to get the money they were getting. Everyone around the world has got that. It's also a  different market, even in France, the money is not what it was."

Williams laid out the stark facts for any player going into imminent contract talks.

"The reality for every rugby professional in the world is when they are going into a contract to be signed or contract talks is they will have a lesser wage going forward," he said.

 

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Andy Farrell IRFU Ireland Rugby Johnny Sexton Matt Williams Monday Night Rugby Wednesday Night Rugby

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