Saturday 24 September 2016

Off the Ball: Sexton's culture shock demands injection of accountability at Leinster

Joe Malloy

Published 04/05/2016 | 02:30

No doubt Sexton has been raging behind the scenes since his return. His decision to open up publicly is worrying: an indication things aren't changing, or certainly not fast enough (SPORTSFILE)
No doubt Sexton has been raging behind the scenes since his return. His decision to open up publicly is worrying: an indication things aren't changing, or certainly not fast enough (SPORTSFILE)

What a frustrating few weeks for Johnny Sexton. Leinster's ignominious European exit contrasts increasingly starkly with the progress of his friends back at Racing 92 .

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Throw in the dismal 30-6 loss to Ulster in the Pro12 and Sexton's ever demanding mood can't be good.

Even in advance of the Ulster defeat, Sexton was sounding alarm bells. On the Wednesday, he told Off The Ball that Leinster are "culturally nowhere near" where they were when he left in 2013.

The results over the past few years make it clear things aren't what they were, but it was hugely noteworthy that Sexton didn't choose to focus on the loss of world class players like Brian O'Driscoll or Gordon D'Arcy or Brad Thorn.

Or more to the point, he didn't choose to focus on the loss of their talent per se; instead he very deliberately talked culture.

All three of those players fall into the category of 'cultural architect'. And Leinster have lost more than their fair share lately. Shane Jennings was another huge loss, and Leo Cullen is no longer apart of the inner dressing-room.

So something culturally has not been passed down. Changes in management, combined with those key player departures, including Sexton himself, left a vacuum, where the once rigidly high cultural standards, painstakingly carved out through the difficult years, have been allowed to slip.

What exactly does 'culture' entail? Everything from application in training to Joe Schmidt's emphasis on pass execution to basic professional accountability seem possible.

No doubt Sexton has been raging behind the scenes since his return. His decision to open up publicly is worrying: an indication things aren't changing, or certainly not fast enough. And he didn't exactly get the desired response in Belfast.

It brings us onto the point, how long does it take to fix culture?

Jennings was in studio with us on Sunday and simply said a 'long time'. It starts with accountability, he added. Leinster need an injection of some, and fast.

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