Felipe Contepomi has likened Johnny Sexton to fine wine as he backed the 36-year-old to continue improving as a rugby player.
Sexton turned 36 over the summer, but he is still Leinster and Ireland’s first choice fly-half as well as captain of both his club and country, and has looked very good in his two performances so far this season.
The experienced fly-half struggled with injuries last season, which Warren Gatland decided was reason enough to leave him out of his British and Irish Lions squad, but when fit he has proven he is still a top-class operator.
Leinster backs coach Contepomi was speaking to the Irish Independent and backed Sexton to continue playing at the highest level for the foreseeable future.
Felipe Contepomi on Johnny Sexton.
“When you are a player like Johnny, at his age, it’s about keeping fit and making sure he keeps up with the pace of the game because he has 20-year-old boys running quick and fast,” Contepomi said.
“Now, having said that, Johnny is looking like a good Bordeaux – the older he becomes, the better he is getting.
“I think he needs to keep himself [in check] and put it in perspective. He is wise enough and experienced enough to take it week-by-week.
“He understands that he needs to keep himself fit, make sure his fitness is up. When he steps up, there is no one with more experience in the team than himself. He has a natural rugby brain. It’s excellent to have him around.”
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) October 11, 2021
Ireland’s options at fly-half.
While Sexton is continuing to play well, it must be said that it is far from ideal for Ireland to be lacking a clear successor to their 36-year-old fly-half.
Ross Byrne, Billy Burns and Joey Carbery have all slotted in at fly-half in the absence of Sexton this year, but the former two have failed to really make the jersey their own, while Carbery is still finding his feet after a lengthy injury break.
Young up-and-coming fly-halves Harry Byrne and Ben Healy have shown promising signs in their burgeoning careers so far, but neither are likely to get many opportunities in green this season.
Sexton has spoken about his desire to play at the Rugby World Cup in 2023, but he has also acknowledged that he has to take his career on season-by-season basis, having signed a one-year contract extension in March.