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Dan Biggar and Johnny Sexton.
Dan Biggar and Johnny Sexton.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

'I'm not sure the refs are going to be too happy having to deal with me and him!'

Johnny Sexton and Dan Biggar will face off as captains in their sides’ Six Nations opener.
Jan 24th 2022, 12:00 PM 47,898 8

JOHNNY SEXTON IS now into his third year as Ireland captain and has played against a fair few different skippers in that period, with another new one to come in two weekends’ time as Wales visit Dublin on the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

Dan Biggar has been compared to Sexton in the past, with both out-halves well known for the demands they place on team-mates.

They’re also known for their demands on referees.

“I text him the other night and said, ‘Congrats.’ I’m not sure the refs are going to be too happy having to deal with me and him! But there will be two of us in it anyway,” said Sexton with a laugh after Leinster’s win over Bath on Saturday.

“He’s a good choice, he’s a leader and obviously one of the first names on the team sheet. He’s a Test match player. He’ll be good for them I think.”

Both are pivotal figures for their sides, meaning that Ireland boss Andy Farrell will have been delighted to watch Johnny Sexton looking sharp on Saturday as Leinster hammered Bath in the Champions Cup.

It was 36-year-old Sexton’s first start since all the way back on 13 November when Ireland beat the All Blacks.

Sexton missed the final outing of the autumn series against Argentina due to an ankle/knee injury, then had to deal with Covid-19 during Leinster’s outbreak over the festive period, as well as cancelled and postponed games.

max-clark-tackles-johnny-sexton Sexton was sharp against Bath. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Having returned to action off the bench against Montpellier two weekends ago, Sexton was happy to get 54 minutes of action into his legs in the win over Bath.

“I obviously felt better than last week which is the most important thing,” said Sexton.

“It has been a long time with the injury first of all and then Covid and then all the games being cancelled. I suppose having got sick myself it took me probably a week to get over that and then struggled for a little bit afterwards, but getting back to full fitness.

“But I felt good out there, felt sharp. Not everything went our way but we are building nicely. It’s only our second game in six or seven weeks, for me, second game in three months, so building nicely.”

Watching Sexton at The Rec, it was apparent how characteristically demanding he was of his team. Leinster scored five tries in each half as they racked up a 64-7 win but Sexton was constantly asking for more.

He left the pitch looking a little unhappy with his own performance, which included three missed conversions but plenty of brilliant attacking work.

“We started slow, inaccurate at the start, but we built into the game and then we did some good things,” said Sexton.

“A couple of the things we pride ourselves on, like our basics, just catch-pass stuff, we gave up some good opportunities early in of the game.

“In quarter-finals, semi-finals and last 16 games you need to nail that. Good learnings for us as well, we did some really good stuff after that initial period.”

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nick-mccarthy-with-johnny-sexton-celebrating-after-kicking-a-cross-field-kick-to-make-a-try Sexton made his first start since November. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Sexton now switches into Ireland mode ahead of their departure for a pre-Six Nations training camp in Portugal.

Last autumn saw Farrell’s men playing some brilliant rugby in their wins over Japan, the All Blacks, and Argentina, so they will look to pick up where they left off. Sexton isn’t too concerned about the fact that he and a few others haven’t played a huge amount of rugby since, and is buzzing for a full house at the Aviva Stadium against Wales on 5 February.

“We can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “We have often had great Novembers and then a slow start [in the Six Nations]. We have had poor Novembers and we have come and blown the tournament apart and been great.

“So, it’s very hard to tell. I think what we need to do is concentrate on what we can control and that’s the two weeks ahead of us – making sure we prepare as well as we can and be in the best shape possible for Wales.

“To have a full crowd is amazing because if it was going to be 5,000 or restricted, it gives up your home advantage, but now we’ll get a big crowd and hopefully it will be a big day.”

- Originally published at 07.15

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Murray Kinsella


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