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'Lockdown has only done him good': Sexton hitting form for Leinster

Stuart Lancaster can’t hide his interest in coaching the Lions and his out-half is showing no signs of easing up his chase for a spot on the tour either.

File photo: Sexton training with Leinster before the shutdown.
File photo: Sexton training with Leinster before the shutdown.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

STUART LANCASTER WON’T shy away from a desire to coach with the Lions.

And the Leinster senior coach reports that Jonathan Sexton, out-half on the Lions’ last two tours, remains in excellent shape as the restart and a long season building up to a tour against the Springboks looms.

“Johnny was in great shape leading into lockdown,” Lancaster said as the issue of the much-shared image of Sexton’s lockdown biceps was put to him.

“The lockdown period has only done him good really. I am only back on the coaching field since last Monday, but he has definitely used it well.

The big markers for me are: is he training at every session? Yes. Has he got any niggles? No. What’s his speed endurance like? It’s good. What’s his skill and decision making like? It is excellent. Is he competitive in training? Yes. Is he holding people to account? Yes.

“His eye is in. He is definitely hungry.”

The hunger, Lancaster points out, certainly isn’t diluted by the other out-halves available to Leinster. Bright young prospects with more than fraternal competition in mind.

“You’ve got Ross Byrne who wants to start and Harry Byrne who is equally as competitive and has got an amazing skill-set as well. So, between the three of them, there is tremendous competition. He has not got it all his own way at all, and that suits us really.”

A fully fit and in-form Sexton over the bulk of year ahead would certainly keep him in the running to represent the Lions as a 36-year-old. If Warren Gatland was to follow up with Lancaster and offer the Leeds man a role on the coaching ticket, the playmaker and coach could carry a formidable partnership to South Africa.

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“He didn’t offer me a coaching role with the Lions. But we did catch up,” Lancaster said in a press conference by video call yesterday.

On Will Greenwood’s podcast, Gatland mentioned the importance of introducing new ideas to a coaching ticket he has been part of since the Lions’ last tour of South Africa and Lancaster’s name was a part of the broadcasted conversation.

“One of the things that I have found really important is that, yes, you want to bring some new faces and new voices in,”said Gatland, whose Chiefs side were unable to claim a win in Super Rugby since the restart. “but you don’t want a clean sweep.”

Lancaster would not turn the invite down flat.

“Obviously from a personal point of view, would I be interested? Of course, as a coach you want to coach at the highest level, coach the best players and I don’t think it gets any higher than coaching the lions against the current world champions, but it’s speculation for the time being.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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