Saturday 16 December 2017

'They’re probably less angry without Johnny’ – Scotland coach plays down Sexton absence

Nathan Hines and (right) Johnny Sexton
Nathan Hines and (right) Johnny Sexton

Ruaidhri O’Connor

Former Leinster second-row Nathan Hines says Ireland’s won’t miss his old team-mate Johnny Sexton too much in tomorrow’s Six Nations opener at Murrayfield.

The Australian-born lock is now a Scotland assistant coach who is plotting the downfall of his former team-mates and old coach Joe Schmidt under whom he won the Heineken Cup in 2011.

Sexton has been ruled out of Saturday’s Six Nations opener with a calf injury and Paddy Jackson starts at out-half.

The 31-year-old has been his team’s talisman in recent seasons, but Jackson started all three Tests in South Africa and the November wins over Canada and Australia as he builds confidence in the position.

And Hines reckons they will cope with Sexton’s absence.

“It doesn’t make them more vulnerable, probably less angry!” Hines said after Scotland went through their Captain’s Run in Edinburgh.

“The thing with Joe is that he'll have systems in place so everyone knows their roles. Paddy will just slot right in, he'll be executing exactly what needs to be done.

“Johnny is a little bit more vocal than Paddy, but it's still not going to be an easy job for us.”

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Having worked under Schmidt at Leinster, Hines is expecting a thorough tactical challenge.

“Joe brings an unbelievable tactical awareness. He brings confidence to the group and he builds confidence within a rugby team, just by his belief in the players and what he presents to the players,” he said.

“Basically, he goes through every other team with a fine toothcomb and finds weaknesses, which obviously gives your team confidence.

“The tactical element of the game against Ireland is immense. They find weaknesses, exploit those weaknesses and then make it very hard for you to play. It's just how we combat that and try to make it as difficult as we can to execute it.

“I spoke to him when I was across at the end of last year. The door is never closed with Joe, as far as I can see - unless it is and he hasn't told me yet. But he's an open guy and we had some good times at Leinster.

“I'm sure he'll give me a cheeky smile before kick-off tomorrow and then want me to do my worst during the game.

“It's just organisation, the way he is with players. When I was at Leinster, well he might have morphed into Super Joe now or something, but the way he is with players and the way he talks to them.

“He doesn't shout very often and he gets his point across without having to be too in your face. In a typical Kiwi way, he gets you to reflect on your performance so he doesn't have to.”

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