'It takes getting used to' - Bench role highlighted for Johnny Sexton how important being a starter is
Johnny Sexton admitted that it was an unusual experience for him to play as a sub in Ireland’s first test of their summer tour against Australia on Saturday.
Sexton, who is likely to start the Saturday's Test in Melbourne, hadn’t been relegated to the bench since he came on to replace Ronan O’Gara against Wales in the 2011 World Cup. Saturday’s game saw him wait in the wings until the 57th minute to make an appearance.
His temporary successor, Joey Carbery, steered Ireland to a 9-8 lead, kicking three from four penalty attempts.
The Leinster outhalf couldn’t guide Ireland to the the win in the last quarter as Australia ended up as 18-9 winners.
From Ireland’s base in Melbourne, Sexton spoke about how being named among the replacements reminded him of how difficult it is when entering the game from the bench.
“It’s not something I’ve been used to with Ireland,” he said.
“I’ve done it a couple of times with Leinster but that’s why you want to start. It’s all about starting for everyone, you want to get that starting place.
“It’s not something I’ve done in a long, long time with Ireland, so it needed a bit of getting used to. Running the Australia plays all last week and then it’s almost like a different type of game when you’re on the bench.
“You’ve got a lot of nervous energy and you’re trying to figure out what moves we’ve played so you can play something different when you come on, so you’re sort of sitting there scratching moves off.”
There are plenty of areas for improvement for Ireland as they bid to keep the series alive this Saturday and Sexton said that the issues arose throughout the game and not just the last 20 minutes.
“Look, there’s lots of frustrations," he admitted.
“There were frustrations for us for the whole game. Obviously, you guys will look at the last 20 minutes and say ‘Ireland lost the last 20,’ so you blame that, but that’s not really how it works in our environment.
“We look at all the moments throughout the game and there were times when the subs came on that we created good opportunities and we didn’t quite take them.
“There’s other times where we lost a moment here or there that we would obviously be expected from the management team to do better. As a whole, we were disappointed with our level of performance throughout the 80.”
Sexton expects Ireland to learn a lot from the weekend defeat and hopes that knowledge yields a better display.
“It’s a good challenge,” he said.
“You learn a lot when you lose. We try and learn through winning and something we did quite well during the Six Nations.
“We improved even when we were winning, which is the sign of a good team, and now we’ve got to bounce back, we’ve got to show a reaction, and perform a hell of a lot better than we did last week.
“We’re very performance driven and I think if we had sneaked a win on Saturday the review would have still been the same.”