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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 23 March, 2019
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'We'll have to show Cheika something he hasn't seen before' -- Jonathan Sexton

Ireland’s out-half also looked back on a painful day the last time he faced his former coach.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

JONATHAN SEXTON WAS full of praise today for his ex-provincial coach Michael Cheika before facing his Wallabies side in Dublin on Saturday.

It’s not too long since Sexton was texting a note of congratulations to the Australian as he found himself ushered to the position of Australia’s head coach.

After fielding queries about how to approach the threats of Wales in an international Test, radio silence has resumed this week.

Sexton credits the Australian with changing the psyche within Leinster Rugby, a change that brought about the eastern province’s first Heineken Cup which in turn laid the foundation for the ‘dynasty’ that Sexton craved.

“He was instrumental in changing our mindset,” Sexton said of his ex-coach, “changing our culture in the organisation and then allowing Joe [Schmidt] to come in and take the organisation on the way he did. Without Cheiks, that wouldn’t have been as seamless as it was and he takes a lot of credit for that.

“He has a great rugby brain, he knows the game inside out. He’ll know us pretty well and we’re going to have to show him some stuff that he hopefully hasn’t seen before.”

With only a month in the job, Cheika’s Wallabies arrive in Dublin on the back of two stern international examinations in the northern hemisphere. It’s enough for Sexton to recognise some changes to the Green and Gold side he faced twice in 2013.

“There’s already some similarities between Australia and New South Wales straight off, in some of their setups. Cheiks is a clever guy, he’ll change some things up — they’ve got a lot of guys on the bench that can make a difference.

Jonathan Sexton with Bob Stewart and Dr Eanna Falvey Sexton gets some treatment against the Waratahs in 2013. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Cheiks knows we’ll have done a lot of analysis and I’m sure he’ll throw a different picture at us.”

There’s a wry smile as he’s asked if he expects to come in for any special treatment. A 10 always expects to be targeted, but his most recent meeting with Cheika was designed to be a bruising affair:

“I played for the Lions against New South Wales and had a bit of a target on my head – Cheiks had a good laugh at it after the game.

“It’s international rugby, you don’t get away with anything dirty or underhand any more with the TMO.

“I’m sure it will be a tough international match, as they all are, I’m just going to be prepared for anything that comes my way.”

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Sean Farrell

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