Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 14 April 2021

Furlong and Ringrose link up with Ireland's six-man leadership group

James Ryan, Iain Henderson, and Peter O’Mahony are also part of the group.

SATURDAY WILL BE just the second time Johnny Sexton has led Ireland out as captain.

The out-half delighted in doing the job against Russia at last year’s World Cup but that was a very different gig. He was standing in for Rory Best on the day and was withdrawn at half-time of what was always likely to be an Irish win.

The 34-year-old naturally took major pride in the honour but this weekend at the Aviva Stadium, with his family and friends in the stands watching on as he plays his first game as the newly-appointed Ireland captain, will be a very special occasion for him.

jonathan-sexton Sexton at Ireland training in Portugal yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in December while playing for Leinster, Sexton is raring to go.

“He’s done everything from day one,” said head coach Andy Farrell yesterday as Ireland prepared to fly home at the end of a week-long training camp in Portugal.

“He’s been ripping in, Johnny, and he’s been excellent in camp. He’s been a different level, so we’re really pleased with how he’s going.”

Sexton is the skipper and a dominant voice in this Ireland group but leadership isn’t just about one man.

Farrell, who captained Wigan and Great Britain at the age of just 21, knows all about the importance of those around the official leader.

He has been encouraged by the early signs from his new Ireland leadership which includes experienced heads in Sexton, Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, and Ulster captain Iain Henderson, as well as the Leinster trio of James Ryan, Garry Ringrose, and Tadhg Furlong. Exiting are the retired Best and also back row CJ Stander.

“There’s a few new guys in there who have been excellent over the last five days, leading the group really well, taking responsibility to be in that group and they’ve made a great start,” said Farrell.

“I said to them yesterday that I’ve never seen the three of them [Ringrose, Ryan, and Furlong] speak as much. They’ve really come out of themselves and took ownership, because I want it to be a little bit inclusive.

“It’s their team, they’ve got to make decisions on the pitch. They’ve got to make decisions on what they want to do off the pitch as well, to buy into things properly. If we can try to build on things together, and obviously if there’s a decision that needs to be had, I’m firmly in the seat to be able to do that.”

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

tadhg-furlong Furlong has 41 caps for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

41-times capped Furlong, who has also started for the Lions in three Tests, is an interesting new addition to the leadership group. It wasn’t a role he had envisaged for himself until Farrell approached him.

The 27-year-old tighthead says he has always been comfortable investing time in chatting with team-mates and gauging the mood of the squad, but he’s already learning new things in Ireland’s leadership meetings.

“I think about the game a lot but there are certainly bits which are very, very new to me and take me out of my comfort zone, which is good for me in some ways,” said the Leinster man.

“It’s something that I’m looking forward to getting more into and learning, seeing how it all unfolds.”

23-year-old Ryan, meanwhile, was many fans’ choice as the next Ireland captain before Sexton’s appointment was confirmed.

The Leinster lock said he wasn’t paying any attention to the hype and underlined that he is keen to keep learning from the likes of Sexton.

“Listen, that wasn’t my decision to make at all,” said Ryan. “People could have written different things but, ultimately, that was the coaches’ call and Johnny is the skipper.

“We can all learn loads off him in the leadership group. He’s an unbelievable captain for Leinster and I’ve no doubt that will transfer with Ireland.

“I’m excited to see what he does with Ireland and he’s got our backing every step of the way.

“He just drives things and he thinks about the game in a bigger picture way. He’s always looking for us to get better and when things aren’t where they need to be, he’s always forthright enough to be able call us out on it or bring us up on it. It’s great getting that exposure in the group to learn off guys like him.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Quinta do Lago

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel