Wednesday 26 April 2017

'Sharp, incisive' Sexton back to his best, insists Lancaster

Jonathan Sexton Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ever since the first genius suggested in a rugby match preview that. . . wait for it. . . there could be a "physical game" in prospect, individual players have been targeted by the opposition.

It is the very essence of the game; it is for the law-makers to adjudge when physicality breaches legality; given their hapless handling of concussion and inability to regulate existing laws, one wonders whether they ever will.

Jonathan Sexton was targeted by his opponents on Friday; and one of them sent off for something that may have escaped sanction here last month; and may still do if replicated in a different jurisdiction.

Sexton will always be targeted because he is one of the world's best players. And Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster believes his status is undimmed by recent absence, as he demonstrated against Montpellier.

"It's the nature of the beast as a 10, if you're going to take the ball flat to the line, you're going to get hit a few times," he says. "On this occasion it was high and he suffered the consequences.

Read More: Sexton overcomes brutal hit to steer Blues into familiar territory

"On the basis of that performance, I think he's in a very good place. Johnny has a great ability to see the picture and what we've tried to do is (ensure) he can see the picture without having to worry about all the other little details, with other people around to help him with that."

Ireland may benefit, too, from lightening his load in such a way.

"The balance of how we spread the work in the backline has been to his benefit so he can play more of a heads-up type of rugby. He showed that on Friday night," added Lancaster.

"He was sharp and incisive with his decision-making. He saw the picture early and he executed well. But he'd be the first to say that it didn't happen by accident, he had a lot of support around him to help him perform that way."

Irish Independent

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