Tuesday 26 March 2019

'Joe speaks about giving 100% to what’s right in front of us' - Paul O'Connell on why Sexton will start in Rome

Paul O'Connell. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Paul O'Connell. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Tony Considine

Paul O'Connell believes that Ireland boss Joe Schmidt will resist the temptation to start Joey Carbery ahead of Johnny Sexton against Italy despite the long-term benefit giving him additional test experience may bring.

Speaking exclusively to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast in association with Aldi, the former Irish captain said; "I think that Joe speaks a lot about giving 100pc to what’s right in front of us.  So I can’t see him making changes.

"I think Johnny is probably our first choice out-half, not by miles but he is certainly out there on his own. I think if you start rotating the squad in a Six Nations maybe you aren’t leading by example or delivering what he wants from the players."

O'Connell had anticipated that Carbery would get his chance after Sexton’s clash with Fineen Wycherley in the Munster-Leinster Guinness PRO14 game at Thomond Park in December looked to have ruled him out of the first two games in the campaign.

But Sexton's powers of recovery once again come to the fore as he returned to fitness before the opener against England. 

"I thought he’d be out for the Scotland game and the England game," the Ireland and Munster legend added.

"I thought the stars were aligning a bit because I felt Joey Carbery was going to get two really big pressure games where he’s in from Monday and he gets to run the show.

"Because the way Johnny and maybe Ronan O’Gara before him has done things - the out-half is a real kind of coach, almost a captain, a leader in the team and from Monday’s training on they really are running the show. I thought it would have been great for Joey to get that opportunity.

"We’ve seen it in other places now where (Kieran) Marmion has played some big games, Luke McGrath has played some big games and probably nearly every other position we have guys that can jump in and out. 

"We just probably haven’t got the experience at 9 and 10 because Conor and Johnny have been so good." 

The Left Wing podcast is in association with Aldi.

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