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Japan on Sexton's mind with Schmidt set to name wider World Cup squad

The Leinster out-half will move back into Ireland mode after leaving Leinster in a happy place.

“ARE THEY COMING?” demanded Johnny Sexton as Leinster waited in the tunnel at Celtic Park, with Glasgow Warriors a little slow to arrive alongside them to run onto the pitch.

The Scots had made Leinster wait in the tunnel at Scotstoun during the pool stages of last season’s Champions Cup too, and Sexton was having none of it on Saturday.

Johnny Sexton celebrates after winning the Guinness PRO14 Final Sexton with the Pro14 trophy at Celtic Park. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There is always a riveting sense of urgency and competitiveness about Sexton, making him such an intriguing player to watch and listen to.

The kind of character who tends to instantly move onto the next challenge even after successes, the 33-year-old will need to force himself to relax in the coming weeks before Ireland get together for the start of their World Cup pre-season.

Joe Schmidt is set to name an extended training squad of around 45 players either this afternoon or tomorrow to get the ball rolling in that regard, before the challenging task of eventually whittling that number down to 31 for the trip to Japan.

Sexton has decent distractions, celebrating Leinster’s Guinness Pro14 title on Saturday night and again yesterday, with a 10-year reunion of the province’s 2009 Heineken Cup winning squad to come tomorrow and on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to that, to seeing some old faces again,” said Sexton with a grin on Saturday night after Leinster had beaten Glasgow 18-15.

Thereafter, Sexton will look to get the feet up before Ireland gather in mid-June to begin their preparations for the World Cup.

“Japan has been at the back of everyone’s minds for ages,” said Sexton.

“It’s very hard not to think about it.

“But I’ll take a rest and try and stay in as good shape as possible to come back into pre-season which is going to be a big five, six months for the whole country really.”

Stuart Lancaster and Johnny Sexton celebrate after winning the Guinness PRO14 Final Cullen and Stuart Lancaster in Glasgow. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Sexton will switch back into Ireland mode having left Leinster in a happy place, with Saturday night’s trophy the perfect way to end a season that included the dejection of losing the Champions Cup final to Saracens.

“It keeps the Leinster momentum going,” said Sexton. “We’ve been to four finals in two seasons and won three. That’s a really good return.

“If you come away with two losses it looks completely different, you’re going into next season empty-handed, so it does change your summer holidays to an extent.

“We’ll still take that hurt from the Sarries game with us I think.

“I hope we do anyway because there is so much that we can learn from it and bring into next season.”

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Murray Kinsella

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