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'We talked about it being a one campaign thing' - Sexton says captaincy may be reviewed due to disrupted season

Johnny Sexton discussed his Ireland captaincy, dealing with critisicm, and how he is staying fit during the lockdown.

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton.
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

JOHNNY SEXTON SAYS his position as Ireland captain may come up for review given the uncertainty surrounding the global rugby calendar.

After succeeding Rory Best as captain, Sexton led Ireland for their opening three fixtures of the 2020 Six Nations, before the rugby season was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is unclear when the rugby season will eventually resume, and speaking on Off The Ball AM this morning, Sexton said his captaincy may come up for review as a result.

“Andy Farrell had spoken to me before the Six Nations,” Sexton said

“We talked about it [captaincy] being a one campaign thing. So, I’m not sure what he’ll do going forward whether he’ll go with someone else or whether he thinks I’ve done a good job.

“If it is someone else I’ll get in behind them and if it is me I’ll try to improve and help the team as best as I can.”

Sexton came in for heavy criticism from some quarters following Ireland’s 24-12 defeat to England in Twickenham in February, a game which stands as his last outing of this disrupted season.

After that England defeat, Ronan O’Gara questioned whether an out-half should ever be captain, but Sexton doesn’t agree with this former team-mate.

“Obviously, it didn’t go to plan against England which was gutting, but it had nothing to do with me being captain,” Sexton added.

jonathan-sexton Sexton came in for criticism after the defeat to England. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I saw a few comments and when you’re going in to do the press conferences David O Siochain [IRFU Media Officer] will tell me the gist of what’s going on.

“People were asking am I struggling with my kicking because of the captaincy. I’d kicked 85 to 90% in my other games as captain, but one bad game and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. That’s the frustrating part, people making these opinions on one performance.”

“I see some of it [the criticism], I don’t see it all and often you might just be walking down in Carton House and you see a headline and suddenly the chimp in you attacks. Whereas maybe what is in the article isn’t too bad at all. So, that can be tough.

“[But] you don’t expect past players and teammates to defend you or stick up for you when it isn’t warranted, it is clear that I had a poor game against England by my standards. You do expect past players not to jump on the bandwagon of my being the captain is too much, however. It wasn’t [too much] in the other four games that I did it, so why is it this time?

“I’d be friends with some of the people doing these jobs, but it can be tough on the relationship.”

Sexton also explained how he has been training at home in a bit to keep fit during the current restrictions. 

“Before the lockdown came in I was able to get out to a pitch last week, but now it’s obviously more difficult, and a lot of the pitches are shut,” he said.

“So I got a kicking net, which is essentially a goal for my five year old son to play soccer into to, but I’m able to nail that into the ground and just kick balls into it. 

“There’s no real matches in sight for us at the moment, so it’s about balance. Normally on my holidays I would do maybe one session every couple of days. I wouldn’t do much kicking on my holidays. A lot of the training I’m doing, I wouldn’t do it on my holidays normally but I’m doing it almost to stay sane really. And then we’re going into an isolated pre-season next week, and we’ll have our programmes sent out to us with exactly what we need to do every day.

“The real training will start next week, but I have been doing a good bit just to stay sane and give my day a bit of routine.” 

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