Friday 9 December 2016

We can rule again - Sexton

Pro12 glory can be catalyst for European revival, insists Leinster's star out-half

Published 28/04/2016 | 02:30

Johnny Sexton believes that a successful Guinness Pro12 run-in can be the catalyst for a new generation of Leinster players returning to the top of European rugby under Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Johnny Sexton believes that a successful Guinness Pro12 run-in can be the catalyst for a new generation of Leinster players returning to the top of European rugby under Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton believes that a successful Guinness Pro12 run-in can be the catalyst for a new generation of Leinster players returning to the top of European rugby under Leo Cullen.

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This season's Champions Cup campaign was a disaster for the three-times champions, who lost five of their six pool games. However, Cullen has been able to blood a new batch of young players over the course of the campaign and his side lead the league table with two games to go.

Sexton believes that winning the 2008 Celtic League was a key step along the way to winning their 2009, 2011 and 2012 European titles and reckons claiming the domestic title for the third time in four years would be a big step forward.

"That 2008 season, winning that Magners League was a huge thing," he said. "It showed the players that they weren't too far away and the following season, where we made our breakthrough, we weren't playing a great rugby, but you get over the line and then we started to keep our success with a better style of rugby.

"When we were (the top team in Europe) we were getting a lot of praise for being the best attacking team, playing the best rugby. At that time we were probably the most at the basic things; our pass accuracy was outstanding, our rucking was excellent,we had some really good players.

"We also had a little bit of luck. We didn't have many bad injuries.

"You add up all those things and then you maybe fall off a couple of per cent in each of them, and you get a couple of bad injuries to really important players, and it's not so easy.

"I don't think we're far away. It's important now that we're not comparing ourselves to that team. We're building from now and this is out start point and we want to finish on a high this season, then build the way the last team built.

"The last team didn't just get good overnight. It started in 2008, it built into some harsh lessons in Europe, then eventually we got there and we stayed there for a good few years.

"When we get all the guys back on board, guys like Seanie (O'Brien), the difference he has on the group on the pitch is huge and can't be underestimated. So getting guys like that back from injury is important. I'm really hopeful and working hard towards that."

Irish Independent

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