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Kicking coach Murphy salutes Sexton's Golden Boot award

WHEN Jonathan Sexton strode to the stage to accept his award as the 'Golden Boot' winner for the Rabodirect PRO12 League in Cardiff, Richie Murphy must have felt a surge of what is commonly known as job satisfaction.

The Senior Skills and Kicking coach has just had his contract extended for two years as the main influence on a squad of goal-kickers that numbers five.

"Players definitely test you all the time. It is great when you, as a coach, can help these guys in some way and see the improvement on the pitch. It is a rewarding place to be," said Murphy.

Yes, the professional game has progressed to the stage where Leinster are building not just a squad of players, but a squad of goal-kickers.

Jonathan Sexton, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa and Ian Madigan, who shot six from seven against The Dragons on Saturday, are all part of that internal competition.

"For the PRO12, we finished at 80 per cent for the five kickers with Mat Berquist in at the very start. That is particularly good," said Murphy.

Sexton picked up the Golden Boot for the statistic of landing 27 kicks from 30 attempts, including 13 in a row at one stage, over the course of 12 matches.

"The guys have a great work ethic. There is a fair bit of competition between them. A few lads are losing a few quid in training sessions," laughed Murphy.

"The players are happy with where they are at. The jostle for places on a weekly basis means that each player will add to his game.

"The messages we have given across to the kickers have been similar for a while. What we have done is added to the types of kicks that we hit.

"The players respond well to that. Ian Madigan kicked at the weekend (against The Dragons) for the second time in the League as the frontline kicker.

"The big thing for us is that they feel when they are stepping up over the ball the process is right. They have exactly what they need to do. It is about delivering then."

And boy is Sexton doing just that. At present, he is showing a mastery of all aspects of the fly-half position, making the right decision almost every time. This is most obvious in his goal-kicking.

"He is on great form at the moment -- really confident with where he's at. There is one or two slight changes in his technique from a couple of months back," said Murphy.

"Even the one that went over the post against Clermont, he felt that he hit it exactly where he wanted. He was expecting a little more wind to bring it back."

Just as clubs have to progress, coaches have to learn and contribute or run the risk of being left behind.

Clearly, coach Joe Schmidt is impressed with Murphy. "Joe is a fantastic guy. He tests you all the time.

"He is also a guy who will help you, give you plenty of feedback on your coaching style and help you develop underneath him. For me, it has been a fantastic opportunity to work with him. I am delighted he has made the decision to keep me on for another couple of years."

For all the fanfare about where Leinster rank in European terms, ratings are not trophies. It is still possible that they could end up empty handed this season.

Glasgow Warriors will come to The RDS on Saturday as outsiders to derail Leinster's surge towards an unprecedented double.

"The Heineken Cup final is a week away. It is obviously in the back of your mind. But, we have worked very hard to get to where we are in the PRO12 with a full squad contributing all year.

"We are going to pick as strong a side as we can for this week. We have to make sure that we take advantage of a home semi-final.

"The double is a possibility. It is three games. We'll take this game this week."