Wednesday 12 December 2018

Brian O'Driscoll confirms he will be voting for Johnny Sexton in World Rugby Player of the Year award

Green giants: Johnny Sexton after the match. Photos: Sportsfile/Douglas O’Connor
Green giants: Johnny Sexton after the match. Photos: Sportsfile/Douglas O’Connor
Rory Tevlin

Rory Tevlin

Irish rugby great Brian O'Driscoll has confirmed he will be voting for Johnny Sexton for the World Rugby Player of the Year award.

The ex-Leinster centre is part of the committee that will choose the premier rugby player on the planet for 2018.

Following Ireland's victory over world champions New Zealand, Sexton is being tipped to pip two-time winner Beauden Barrett to the award.

However, Barrett (27) has claimed the award for the past two years and will also have his backers.

The other nominees are New Zealand wing Rieko Ioane and South African stars Faf de Klerk and Malcolm Marx.

The shortlist was selected by a panel made up of Rugby World Cup winners Richie McCaw, John Smit, George Gregan, Maggie Alphonsi and former England coach Clive Woodward alongside Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, Fabien Galthié and Agustín Pichot.

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Johnny Sexton posted a picture from the Ireland dressing room onto his Instagram page alongside Bundee Aki, Gary Ringrose and Keith Earls with the caption: “Unreal support. Best atmosphere ever!! Quiet night ahead”

But O'Driscoll told Off the Ball that he feels it is a straight choice between Sexton and Barrett.

He explained: "The committee has a conference call this evening. I will be doing some listening early on to what my southern hemisphere fellow panellists will be saying.

"South Africa had to have an enormous November for Faf de Klerk and Mark to step out. Ioane has been very good throughout the year, prolific, but by his standards not as good in November.

"Barrett hasn't been as good in November as perhaps he was in certain times of the year. People are probably a bit hung up on him not taking his drop goal in Wellington against South Africa but you forget that he scored four tries against Autralia aswell.

"It feels as thought it is Johnny Sexton versus Beauden Barrett. I am really interested, it is a conversation I am looking forward to being part of."

Sexton is hoping to become the first Irish player to win the award since hooker Keith Wood in 2001.

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Brian O'Driscoll. Photo: Sportsfile

O'Driscoll went on to explain that despite Barrett's incredible performances, he would find it hard to look past Sexton.

He said: "I have a fair idea which way I am voting.

"I would think on the balance of what has gone on this year with someone that has pulled it out of the fire for Ireland, scoring a 45 metre drop goal, I know it is not based as much on proviincial play but has managed to win a European Cup and the Pro 14.

"Won the series and now they will be unbeaten in November, I think it is very hard to go away from a guy that has been front and centre in all those performances and victories.

"So, yes I will be voting for the Ireland number 10."

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