| 6.6°C Dublin

Sexton makes major play for No 10 berth against Biarritz

Close

Jonathan Sexton is tackled by Zebre's Giovanbattista Venditti

Jonathan Sexton is tackled by Zebre's Giovanbattista Venditti

Jonathan Sexton is tackled by Zebre's Giovanbattista Venditti

LEINSTER's 'comeback kid' Jonny Sexton appears to be back in pole position to don the No 10 jersey against Biarritz in the Challenge Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Ian Madigan has done superbly in the Leinster pivot role since Sexton injured himself against England in the Six Nations, but Ireland's No 1 out-half reminded everybody yesterday why Racing Metro have forked out so much money to get his signature.

Apart from converting all seven of his kicks against Italian minnows Zebre, Sexton was at his brilliant best in controlling the game – a point not lost on coach Joe Schmidt: "He is a great general out on the field, and he gave us a fair bit of direction."

While Schmidt stopped short of saying who he would play against Biarritz, the Kiwi did hint that Sexton had put himself in the frame. "In terms of next week, the six-day turnaround would probably favour fresher players but, at the same time, Jonathan is a marquee player for us and played with great assurity today."

Candidate

Meanwhile, Schmidt is expected to be announced as the new Ireland head coach before the week is out. This will leave a gaping hole in Leinster's coaching ticket. The three-times Heineken Cup champions will scour the world to identify the best possible candidate but know that they will be blessed to find a contender as qualified as Schmidt was back in 2010.

Then Leinster had the luxury of nearly 18 months to secure Michael Cheika's replacement, as he gave them plenty of notice.

Leinster have known since last season that Schmidt was unlikely to stay beyond his current contract – due to expire at the end of the 2013/14 season – but it had been hoped the man recognised as one of the top coaches in Europe might be persuaded to stay longer.

Leinster had been looking at possible successors on a peripheral level. Australian coach Robbie Deans has been suggested but his future with the Wallabies won't be known until after the Lions tour. New Zealand U-20 coach Chris Boyd is another possible candidate.

Irish Independent