LEINSTER backs coach Richie Murphy is confident Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton will not let Ronan O’Gara’s promotion to national number one deflate his game or his confidence.
“I don’t see it as being an issue at all for him. He’ll look forward to playing. He’ll add a lot to us in his leadership and in what he brings to the game. He won’t be looking back,” he said.
Former Leinster fly-half Murphy is waiting on clearance from the national management for Sexton to be allowed to play for Leinster at home to the Scarlets in the Magners League on Friday night.
“We expect Johnny to be available to play. I don’t think we will be doing anything differently. Johnny is maturing really well. I think he realises that Ronan (O’Gara) had a good game (against Scotland),” he said.
“I would expect him to come back just the same way as he always does. He is confident in his ability. He is playing well. Okay, everyone has their opinion on the way he’s playing for Ireland. But he suits our game. We will be looking forward to getting him back, if he is available.”
The speculation over Sexton’s game management does not cut any ice with Murphy. “People were making calls for him to kick more. If you only have two lads in the chase line, you can’t kick the ball because it will just come straight back at you,” he said.
“We saw that later on in the game when Luke (Fitzgerald) tried to hit one down into the far right corner. It was a good learning curve. Every time you go onto the pitch, you learn. I know he won’t be afraid of that.”
Leinster will be able to draw on the experience of Ireland replacements Leo Cullen and Fergus McFadden, as well as the likely return of Scotland international Nathan Hines.
Stephen Keogh is the only injury worry with a banged up ankle. The two rookie Ians, McKinley and Madigan, are beginning to hit their stride for the first team in the absence of Sexton. McKinley was superb for Leinster in the win over Benetton Treviso on Friday night.
“The experience from the week before has really stood to him. He has enjoyed the last few weeks with Johnny being away. He is a confident young player.
“He hasn’t had the opportunity this year coming back from the bad eye injury. He is now finding his feet. We’ve got two very good young out-halfs the same age. Madigan, when he came on, was very good too.”
While Sexton will target a return to Ireland’s first XV in competition with O’Gara, he will also have to keep his eyes on two 21-year-old men on the way up – Madigan and McKinley.