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'He's a bit rusty' - Luke Fitzgerald backs Johnny Sexton to bounce back from abysmal Lions start

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The Lions Tour did not begin in a way that Ireland fans were hoping with both Johnny Sexton and Iain Henderson disappointing against the Provincial Barbarians.

Hooker Rory Best and tighthead Tadhg Furlong fared better at the weekend but the Irish quartet starting tomorrow's game against the Blues will be hoping to make a more explosive impact.

#WATCH Luke Fitzgerald on Sexton's struggles and his Lions memories

Posted by Independent Sport on Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne team up in the centre, with Leinster loosehead and the rampaging CJ Stander also among the starting XV.

Munster fans will also be looking out for Peter O'Mahony who is likely to feature from the bench alongside Sexton, Henderson and Best.

Saturday's game was Sexton's second since the Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Clermont on April 23 and Fitzgerald is backing his former teammate to regain his best form quickly.

"I'd say he is a bit rusty. You could see that in some uncharacteristic things that he'll get together pretty quickly," he told the latest episode of The Left Wing.

"The kicking out of hand, he's usually he's the best outhalf in Europe at that. Definitely with the cross-fielders and grubbers, he's usually outstanding at them.

"And ball handling, I don't know anyone with better ball handling anywhere in world rugby than Johnny Sexton.  I think it's a rustiness thing, I know he only had two or three sessions before that Scarlets game which means that he's only played two games in six weeks.

#WATCH Luke Fitzgerald on Sexton's struggles and his Lions memories

Posted by Independent Sport on Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"I know people are expecting huge things from him with the body of work he has and the success he has had with Leinster and Ireland and with the Lions series of Australia last time out. I'd be backing him to pull it together very quickly.

"With one or two more opportunities to do that, I think he will.

"I know from talking to him that he feels like he's in a great place."

Fitzgerald wants to see Sexton partnered with Owen Farrell in midfield before the First test and believes their 10-12 axis could be the key to success in New Zealand.

"Himself and Farrell would be such a nice combination because they are both excellent with ball in hand, both excellent passers of the ball, I think Johnny might have a  slight edge in that department, both very creative from the boot, especially from open play but both brilliant defender, which is really key against New Zealand," he added.

""I'd hope that they would get one opportunity to play together especially with Ben Te'o, Johnny Davies and the back three that the Lions are going to have.

Having two playmakers in there, with a short period to get organised... those guys could unleash that backline."

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