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Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball

Ireland outhalf Johnny Sexton has been named as the new Ireland captain ahead of the start of the 2020 Six Nations Championship.

Head coach Andy Farrell has opted for the Leinster outhalf to succeed Ulster hooker Rory Best, who held the role from 2016 until his retirement at the end of last year's Rugby World Cup.

Sexton was made skipper by former head coach Joe Schmidt for the win against Russia in Japan, something he admitted to dreaming about from a young age.

"It's a massive honour," said Sexton ahead of the Russian victory.

"I haven't had a chance to tell my family or anything but I'm sure they're going to be very proud as well.

"[It's] something that I've thought about since I was a kid, something that I've made a lot of decisions around, trying to get there one day.

"It's taken a while but it was worth the wait and I feel incredibly proud."

However, when he spoke to Off The Ball after the World Cup in November, the Dubliner was coy regarding his chances of getting the job on a permanent basis.

"I got the privilege of doing it from the start once, against Russia," said Sexton.

"I've done it in games when Rory wasn't in Australia and Pete (O'Mahony) went off at fifty minutes in one game and then went off injured early in another game.

"I did it in France last year when we won the Grand Slam when Rory went off, so I've done it but again, it's up to Andy what way he wants to go.

"If he wants to with someone that's younger and build the team around them for the next decade, that's not up to me to decide or to speculate or to throw my hat in the ring."

The 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year will turn 35 in July and is contracted to continue playing through to the next British and Irish Lions tour in 2021.

There was one younger candidate mooted for the captaincy but Sexton's 23-year-old Leinster team-mate James Ryan still has plenty of time to take on the role.

O'Mahony was the other possible candidate but the Munster man has not been in exceptional form of late and his position in the team is not guaranteed in an extremely competitive Ireland back row.

Now the new international captain's main focus will be to ensure he is primed and ready for Ireland's opennig 2020 Six Nations game against Scotland in Dublin on February 1.

He has been ruled out of Leinster's final Heineken Champions Cup pool match away to Benetton this Saturday but he has stepped up his recovery according to the province.

Sexton has been out of action since injuring knee ligaments against Northampton on December 7 and his provincial head coach is optimistic regarding his chances.

"Johnny is very professional and he is looking good," said Leo Cullen.

"But definitely, he won't make it this weekend. Hopefully, he will be fit to at least be in contention for [Six Nations] selection."

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