Friday 23 June 2017

Dempsey backs Sexton to star again

Ben Te’o and Johnny Sexton relax during the Leinster squad training in UCD this week. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ben Te’o and Johnny Sexton relax during the Leinster squad training in UCD this week. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Johnny Sexton's performance against Ulster last weekend was the best that he has produced for Leinster since returning from his two-year stint in Paris and Girvan Dempsey has backed the out-half to build on that in tomorrow's Pro12 final against Connacht.

Sexton admitted that he struggled to settle back into his old surrounds following the World Cup but his flawless display at the RDS proved that he is back to his best.

Going up against the less experienced AJ MacGinty, Leinster will be looking to Sexton again as they look to ensure that they win back the Pro12 title.

Dempsey, who is working with Sexton as backs coach having also played with him during his Leinster career, has watched him blossom into the world-class 10 that he is and he is expecting him to control the game in the same manner at Murrayfield.

"I think our senior players really stood up on Friday night, really grasped the game and played extremely well," Dempsey maintained.

"Straight from the off they had the bit between their teeth, they were going to after this game but Johnny has been exceptional, a really good leader off the field but we're fortunate that we have a number of guys who are in the position to do that as well.

"But I think you look at the way he managed the game overall and the way he brought the backs and forwards into play, and the way he managed his kicking game to put pressure back on Ulster, it was exceptional.

"Off the ground his kicking game was brilliant and I think his all-round game was excellent, but I think a lot of the players spoke about the atmosphere after the game in the changing room and it was the best that they've experienced in a while.

"They fed off the crowd because the crowd got into the game and they said it was just unreal. It's massive credit to our supporters who really showed up and gave everything to get the team going."

Despite hotels in the Scottish capital hiking up their prices for this weekend, a large Leinster contingent is expected to travel to Edinburgh for tomorrow's mouthwatering decider. In what is a meeting between the top two teams in the league, Dempsey shrugged off the notion that Leinster were favourites by dint of finishing ahead of Connacht at the top of the table.

The Westerners' attacking game has caused sides problems all season and Dempsey is adamant that his side must find a way to quell that threat if they are to be crowned champions.

"Connacht have been consistently on the attack throughout the season, they score tries and challenge you in every facet of the game from a strong set-piece to a wide attack," he said.

"Defensively, you look at the last two games against Glasgow and they were very strong so they've obviously worked on that, so any game, especially a final, you don't take anything for granted... it's a final, it's Cup rugby, it's on the day.

"It stems from their set-piece and everyone knowing their role. It's been very effective every year and it's a challenge for every team to negate that attacking game. But we're confident in our defensive systems.

"Hopefully a dry day. I think if you look at our games during the Pro12 season it's been frustrating that we seemed to get the bad weather all the time, a lot of wet and windy days.

"It's been challenging to try and manage days like that so both teams will be hopeful that if the weather's good, it's a great pitch and will be a great atmosphere, so we'll just be pleased to get a dry day."

Irish Independent

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