This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 8 °C Monday 18 February, 2019
Advertisement

Sexton must lay down marker as Lions get 2017 tour underway

The Ireland out-half will be fighting hard for his spot.

Murray Kinsella reports from Whangārei

THOUGH HE HAD the experiences of 2013 to add a little extra confidence, Johnny Sexton says he still felt like it was his first day in school when he joined the Lions squad the Monday after Leinster’s Pro12 semi-final defeat to Scarlets.

Jonathan Sexton during the kicking practice Sexton kicking at Toll Stadium yesterday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

He’s a senior man this time and knows many of the coaches and players well, but Sexton still had those jitters when he linked up with Warren Gatland’s squad in Carton House.

Adding to the sense of apprehension is the fact that Sexton is under real pressure from England’s Owen Farrell for the Lions’ 10 shirt.

Though the Irishman was the clear first-choice in 2013 in Australia, guiding the Lions to series success, he doesn’t think past glories will be any advantage in New Zealand this time around.

Farrell and Welshman Dan Biggar provide experienced competition to Sexton at out-half, meaning the Ireland playmaker is feeling very different about this Lions tour than the 2013 one.

Well, there’s three of us, rather than two – that’s the first thing,” says Sexton. “It’s a challenge to get into the squad. That was my goal at the start of the year: to get into that squad Gats picked.

“That was my first goal and the next one was that the Test team will be picked on form out here, I think, so to try and make as good an impression as I can and try to play to my potential and see where that gets me.

“If that gets me into the team or the squad, or not in the 23, if I did my best I can live with that. It’s up to me now just to play to my potential and see where that gets me.”

Sexton gets the first shot in the Lions’ 10 shirt today against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Toll Stadium [KO 8.35am Irish time, Sky Sports].

Jonathan Sexton during the press conference Sexton is on his second Lions tour. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Farrell is on the bench for the tour opener, while Biggar will have to wait for next week’s games against the Blues and the Crusaders for his first chance to make an impression.

“I think it’s just to get some game time,” says Sexton of lining out first. “I don’t think it’s any pecking order or anything like that. But it’s always good to get the first chance to make the first impression, I suppose.

“Preparation won’t be ideal but you’ve got to leave all the excuses at the door when you play for the Lions. It doesn’t come around very often so you’ve got to appreciate every moment you get in the jersey.”

Sexton is set to goal kick for the Lions today in Whangārei and it will be intriguing to note how this element of their game pans out over the course of the tour.

Leigh Halfpenny was first-choice kicker for the Lions in 2013, when Sexton had wanted to take the shots at goal, and the Welshman will likely take on tee duties if he is to start the Tests this year.

Sexton will use opportunities like today to ensure that he is prepared if he is needed to kick goals in the Tests.

“I am happy to do it now,” says Sexton. “I was happy to do it on the last tour. Every minute I played in Australia was with Leigh and Jenks [kicking coach Neil Jenkins) said Leigh was going to kick.

"He had an outstanding tour kicking-wise. If Jenks says someone else is going to kick then that is fine with me. I will prepare as I always do and I will hopefully be ready to take them if I am called upon."

One of the things working in Sexton's favour when it comes to the 10 shirt is the fact that he has beaten the All Blacks, helping Ireland to success in Chicago in November.

Jonathan Sexton during the kicking practice Sexton will be in the 10 short today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

While the Lions will have their own specific plans to down Steve Hansen’s side, Sexton says some elements of that Irish win are relevant on this tour.

“There’s ways that you have to play against them. We stuck to the game plan in Chicago and in the Aviva, we caused them trouble, but when we went away from that we struggled against them.

“You can’t sit back against them, that’s the one thing I think the Irish guys might try and influence with the other guys, that you’ve got to keep attacking no matter what the scoreline. I think you saw that in Chicago more than anything.

“When we sat back, we conceded two or three tries and then flipped the switch again and started to attack and we got some rewards. Remember Robbie [Henshaw]‘s try and how that came about, attacking off the scrum and putting the ball in behind them.

“So it’s not just attacking with ball in hand, it can be an attacking, kicking game and defence as well. That’s probably the one big thing.”

Lions:

15. Stuart Hogg
14. Anthony Watson
13. Jonathan Joseph
12. Ben Te’o
11. Tommy Seymour
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Greig Laidlaw

1. Joe Marler
2. Rory Best
3. Kyle Sinckler
4. Alun Wyn Jones
5. Iain Henderson
6. Ross Moriarty
7. Sam Warburton
8. Taulupe Faletau

Replacements:

16. Jamie George
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Tadhg Furlong
19. George Kruis
20. Justin Tipuric
21. Rhys Webb
22. Owen Farrell
23. Elliot Daly

NZ Provincial Barbarians:

15. Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau)
14. Sam Vaka (Counties Manukau)
13. Inga Finau (Canterbury)
12. Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato)
11. Sevu Reece (Waikato)
10. Bryn Gatland (North Harbour)
9. Jack Stratton (Canterbury)

1. Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty)
2. Sam Anderson-Heather (Otago) (captain)
3. Oliver Jager (Canterbury)
4. Josh Goodhue (Northland)
5. Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty)
6. James Tucker (Waikato)
7. Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki)
8. Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury)

Replacements:

16. Andrew Makalio (Tasman)
17. Tolu Fahamokioa (Wellington)
18. Marcel Renata (Auckland)
19. Matt Matich (Northland)
20. Peter Rowe – Vice Captain (Wanganui)
21. Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty)
22. Jonah Lowe (Hawke’s Bay)
23. Joe Webber (Bay of Plenty)

The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

Letter from New Zealand: Lions easing happily into life on tour

‘I want them to express themselves’ – Gatland backs Lions to bring x-factor

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

Read next:

COMMENTS (11)