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Exclusive: Sexton responds to ROG's succession no.10 succession plan

Jonathan Sexton says succession planning for the Ireland number-10 jersey is none of his business...



Jonathan Sexton says succession planning for the Ireland number-10 jersey is none of his business. 

With Joey Carbery continuing his road to recovery, and the Byrne brothers not yet up to speed, 35-year old Sexton is the undisputed starting out-half for both Leinster and Ireland.

Earlier this week, one of his predecessors in the coveted jersey Ronan O'Gara offered OTB Sports an ideal scenario for the end of Sexton's international career.

"It is very obvious to me that the key man in all of this is Joey Carbery because he changes the potential for Johnny's role," O'Gara said.

"Without Joey, there is a huge responsibility and onus on Johnny to start games and do everything.  If Joey was there, Johnny could pay the backup role and have as much impact in the 30 minutes than he could with the 50 or 60.

"It also tactically changes the situation as well, but if Joey finds his stride then there is the capacity to bring in Ross or Harry Byrne, or another player to get up to speed with Johnny in the background.

"Talking about it, and you are that player who has such a burning desire for your country... Johnny isn't going to walk away."

In an exclusive Off The Ball interview, Sexton responded to O'Gara's roadmap, saying, "It's not up to me, like. They're not decisions that I make as a player. They're decisions that the coaches make.

"That's ROG's opinion - what do you want me to say to that? - in terms of, I need to change my role.

"It's not something that I ever think about, it's not something that I want to start thinking about.

"I just try [to] turn up in the best shape I can, in the best mental state I can and perform in training. And if that gets me picked well then I want to start and play for Ireland.

"That's basically my motivation. If the coach says, 'look, in this game we think you're better off coming off the bench', well then I literally throw myself into it that way.

"But it's not going to be something I decide or have any influence on."

Game-by-game

Eight days out from winning his 96th international cap, Sexton says he's not even contemplating retirement, "I don't know how far away we are from it. It's not up to me when I end either. It's very much season-by-season, it's game-by-game.

"The cut-throat nature of professional sport is you don't know when the end is going to be. And I want to make the most of whenever that might be.

"If it's this season, if it's next season, I don't know. All I know is that I'm motivated to try to play well for Ireland at the moment.

"If I perform well in training, hopefully I'll get picked and then it'll be all focused on that really."

World Cup 2023?

Should the Lions series with South Africa go ahead in the summer, Sexton is a shoo-in for Warren Gatland's squad.

But what about a fourth World Cup? Sexton will be 38 when France 2023 rolls around, but he hasn't ruled out trying to get himself on that plane.

"I suppose I made a comment with the media a month ago, or two months ago, and said 'in my head, I still think I can get there'," he told Off The Ball.

"It was a little bit tongue-in-cheek. At the moment I'm loving the game, I'm loving training, I'm loving playing with my teammates so I don't see a need to finish now.

"But things can change very quickly. I'm literally taking it season-by-season, and at the moment all of my focus is on literally Wales at the moment and getting 100 per cent fit and firing into next week.

"Everything else, I suppose, looks after itself. Nothing else looks after itself if you're not holding your end of the bargain up and performing and playing well."

What a difference a decade makes

Despite his advancing years, Sexton feels he's more involved in games now than he was at the spritely age of 25.

"Back then I was playing more consistently, as in, more games," he said.

"I suppose I went through a period in my career where I got very few niggles and injuries, and then over the last couple of years I've had a few.

"Some parts of my game now are so much better than they were back then. I look back at some of the games - even through lockdown when we were looking at the old games on TV - and I think I'm more 'in the game' for longer at the moment.

"I think back then I used to have brilliant moments, but would maybe drift in and out of the game, or be watching the game at times.

"As opposed to now where I feel I'm in it. So I think with things that you've learned over the years, I'd hope that I've kept improving.

"Obviously sometimes when you don't play consecutively you don't get your best form, but hopefully we'll get that now over the next few weeks."

“Lesson learned” – Jonathan Sexton reflects on THAT reaction in Paris

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Ireland Joey Carbery Jonathan Sexton Ronan O'Gara Six Nations

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