Leinster coach backs Sexton to bounce back from Test axe
Dropped by Declan Kidney for Sunday's win over Scotland, Jonny Sexton returned to the loving arms of his province yesterday and looks likely to line out against Scarlets on Friday.
The Leinster out-half watched Ronan O'Gara's Murrayfield masterclass before replacing his rival to see the match out as Ireland held on for victory. He didn't do badly, but with many of those around him losing their heads as Scottish momentum built to a crescendo, it wasn't an ideal environment to construct a case for a recall.
Having been left out by Kidney in the heavy 33-10 defeat to France in last season's Six Nations, Sexton used a Magners League clash with Llanelli to impress the Ireland coach and was back in harness for the win over England at Twickenham.
He will look to do the same this week if given the opportunity, and Leinster's skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy believes that the pivot, who was in UCD for training yesterday but did not take part, will not need any kid gloves before the match.
"He will be ready to play," he said. "Jonny has matured really well. He realises that Ronan had a really good game but I expect Jonny to just come back the same way as he always does and perform for Leinster if he plays.
"He is confident in his ability and he is playing well. Everyone has their own opinion on the way he is playing for Ireland, but he suits our game and we are looking forward to getting him back as soon as possible.
"I don't see it (being dropped) as being an issue at all for him. I think he will look forward to playing. He will add a lot to us in his leadership and in what he brings to the game."
Many of Sexton's international appearances have been curtailed as O'Gara replaced him to see out the match, but the roles were reversed in Edinburgh. He received some criticism for running ball when he might have kicked, but Murphy points out that Ireland's chasing game needs work if they are to use the boot more often.
"A lot of the focus has gone onto him for closing out the game," he said. "There was a lot of rough stuff going on and people were making the calls to kick the ball more, but if you only have two lads on the chase line, you can't kick it because it will just come straight back at you.
"Our chase line wasn't great and the ball came straight back at us. It's a good learning curve. You learn something every time you go onto the pitch and I know he won't be afraid of that."
Leinster will find out today for sure if they will be able to pick Sexton; they should have Fergus McFadden, Leo Cullen and Nathan Hines back from international duty, while Stephen Keogh is struggling with an ankle injury.