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Sexton leads the way

Skipper ready to drive Blues on to fifth European crown

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Leinster captain Johnny Sexton at the launch of the Champions Cup in the Aviva yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster captain Johnny Sexton at the launch of the Champions Cup in the Aviva yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster captain Johnny Sexton at the launch of the Champions Cup in the Aviva yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton sees the fifth Champions Cup title as an important tool in Leinster's motivational kit.

Former kingpins Toulouse and the Irish province lead Europe on four titles apiece.

One more star on the shirt would separate Leinster from the French giants, making them unashamedly and undisputed as the best in Europe, not just for five seasons, but over the history of the competition.

"That's a motivation for us now, isn't it? Yeah, I think it's a big driver," he said.

"We spoke about that when Stuart (Lancaster) first came in with Leo (Cullen). "They painted a picture of what we wanted to look like in a few years' time.

"Having five stars would be top of the list," he added.

First thing's first, last season, Leinster had to debunk the theory that the French clubs were too well-resourced, Scarlets were too quick, too sharp and that Saracens were too big, too well-drilled.

"We had a big motivation to get to that fourth star and match Toulouse, and we matched the top of our domestic league as well with the most wins there.

Building

"Now it's about building on it," he said.

The nagging, gnawing void that has to be filled with winning for Sexton is not as relentless or definitive for others. The 33-year-old has played his part in making Leinster a centre for excellence.

"I don't think the motivation has changed. I don't feel any different anyway. I hope the other guys feel the same. It doesn't look like it. I think if you'd looked at the last few weeks, we looked pretty motivated I think."

It has always been deep-rooted in Sexton's nature to take charge.

The honour of the Leinster captaincy has not led to any change.

Even when he wasn't supposed to be captain, especially when he wasn't supposed to.

"To be honest, I don't think too much has changed," Sexton explained.

"Right or wrong, I probably thought I was captain when there were times I wasn't.

"I probably pi**ed off the captains I played with at times," he admitted.

"But, I always respected them, even though I probably annoyed them, badgered them."

The cool demeanour broadcasted by Leinster's three-time Heineken Cup captain and current head coach Cullen runs contrary to the hot-headed exasperation Sexton can feel and show.

"I remember playing with Leo," he stated.

"At times, I thought we should go for the corner or go to the points and he would have thought otherwise.

"We would have a word and, once he made his decision, I accepted it and did whatever he asked.

"I have always respected it.

"There are guys in the environment now that, hopefully, will do the same.

"That's probably an important part of it as well, to listen to the guys around you."

Sexton the player is not that different to Sexton the captain.

He said: "As a captain, you are always going to have flaws, aren't you?"

"As a player, you are always going to have flaws.

"(It's) how you fix them up and keep them under control in the heat of battle or in those difficult situations, that's the challenge as a player with leadership.

"I'm definitely not the complete leader. But, I have yet to meet someone that is the complete leader."


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