Saturday 24 February 2018

Ireland can reap benefit of Sexton's Racing frustration

Jonathan Sexton admits at time he feels like giving up on Racing Metro and coming home
Jonathan Sexton admits at time he feels like giving up on Racing Metro and coming home
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IS IT any wonder Ireland's top players didn't head to France, given the terrible time Jonathan Sexton appears to be having in Paris?

Coming hot on the heels of the fly-half's admission in a Sunday newspaper that he comes home from training in a bad mood most days and questioned whether his Racing Metro team-mates are trying at times, his comments during an interview with the BBC to be screened in full before Sunday's Six Nations opener against Scotland paint a picture that matches the unhappy figure we have seen on our television screens throughout the Top 14 season.

Sure, he says he has enjoyed the touristic side of one of the world's great cities, but Ireland's No 10 does not appear to be enjoying professional life in France.

His confession to the BBC that he felt, during games, that he wanted to "walk in on Monday and tell them I'm going home" is telling, even if there have been others where he has "come off thinking 'right, this is the start of it, I could be here forever'."

Despite their big spending last summer, Racing have struggled for form and their performance against Harlequins in Round 3 of the Heineken Cup pool stages drew the public ire of their backer Jacky Lorenzetti.

It has been far from plain sailing for the Dubliner, who has admitted that he has found himself leaning increasingly on his old rival Ronan O'Gara for support.

Right now, he is ensconced in Maynooth with his former Leinster coach Joe Schmidt and many of his former provincial team-mates. The team hotel has become a home away from home – and a welcome break from the struggles in the Top 14.

And his dissatisfaction with domestic work-life can be turned into a positive by the New Zealander over the next eight weeks.

At Racing, the creative force is limited at times to kicking up-and-unders and playing without the ball, but that won't be the case this week as the brains trust who won two Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup and a Pro12 in style shouldn't take long to click.

The Sexton who reported for duty last week before jetting back to the French capital for a starring role in Racing's win over Toulouse is far fresher than the one who played 13 weeks in a row after a minimal break over the summer.

He admitted yesterday that he felt "drained" when coming into camp in the autumn and was carrying a number of niggles. Schmidt effectively gave him the first weekend off, allowing him to travel to Kerry to clear his head and relax, and he came back in for the Australia and New Zealand Tests.


On Sunday, he said that nobody had thought about the kick that would probably have sealed a famous win over the All Blacks more than him and he still ponders whether he should have come off beforehand.

That will linger, but the return home to play alongside so many of his friends in the Ireland set-up will lift him, while the reticence to shout and roar instructions at his French team-mates in his customary style won't be followed up in Ireland camp.

On Tuesday, Brian O'Driscoll wryly observed that Sexton is the only member of the squad safe from Schmidt's axe and he showed enough last weekend to hint that he is hitting his peak.

Fitness permitting, a few weeks with the national team, working with Schmidt and away from the depressing nature of Racing's season should help and Ireland can be the main beneficiaries.

Irish Independent

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