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Dublin: 11°C Thursday 15 April 2021

'Johnny struggles to let 6 hours go without thinking about rugby': Nacewa backs Sexton to power on at Leinster

If Sexton does end up being sidelined, the Leinster captain is confident Joey Carbery can steer the team in Europe.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

LEINSTER CAPTAIN ISA Nacewa is confident the province’s medical staff will do right by Jonathan Sexton to continue his ‘fizzing’ form.

Between Leinster’s Champions Cup trip to Montpellier and Ireland’s November Test series, the 31-year-old was forced into an early withdrawal three times in five weeks with hamstring trouble on both legs.

And after the out-half missed the final international of the year, Joe Schmidt mooted the possibility of imposing a rest period on the Dubliner to help him strengthen muscles and make a full recovery.

Nacewa, in his second spell with the eastern province after retiring from the sport from 2013 to 2015, has clearly benefited from some time away from the game as continues to play an important role in the Leinster back-line at 34. However, he doesn’t believe the same approach can be applied to everyone.

“Every player’s situation is different. I retired from the game. I wasn’t even thinking about rugby when I finished so I can’t really compare what I did to what Johnny is going through,” Nacewa said as Canterbury launched their Leinster Stories campaign.

“It has its benefits, but the medical staff will always put the player first, we’ve got world-class medical staff and whatever the plan is will happen.”

Johnny struggles to let six days go by, or six hours without kicking a ball or thinking about rugby. He’s been so dedicated since his (shoulder) surgery in the summer to Leinster Rugby. it’s been  great to have him around.”

“He’s been fizzing lately, look at the performances, it’s pretty special to see.”

Leinster have been confident that Sexton will continue to hit his rehabilitation markers and prove his fitness in time for the Champions Cup meeting with Northampton, three weeks after his first-half withdrawal in the loss to New Zealand.

However, if Sexton does not pull through in time for the visit to Franklin’s Gardens, Nacewa has no doubt that his fellow Auckland-born playmaker Joey Carbery can grab a hold of the reins.

“He’s already led us. He led us against Castres, came on against Montpellier. He has the highest experience in international rugby already, and that’s all in the last three months,” Nacewa says before kicking practice on a bitterly cold morning at the RDS.

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unnamed (9) Canterbury want to capture the highs, the lows, the passion and the pain and what it means to be a true Leinster supporter. Jump into the custom built hot seat and share your Leinster tale at select home games starting with the visit of Northampton on 17 December. Source: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Though he’s happy for the new Ireland international to step in and run the back-line, the kicking responsibility is something Nacewa is more reluctant to pass on.

“Place-kicking’s been on the table a few times, Joey’s itching to take control of the place-kicking. But there’s a bit of a, dare I say, pecking order, but we do what’s right for the team come game day.”

Michael Hooper and David Pocock tackle Joey Carbery Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I’ve no issue with Joey stepping in (at number 10). He’s already proved he can lead in our squad.

“We’ve got some tough characters in our squad and quite a lot of senior players, Joey has slipped in seamlessly and taken on a leadership responsibility. He does it in games and, more importantly, he does it in training throughout the week. It’s exciting to play with him.”

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