Johnny Sexton is still feeling plenty of pressure heading into his sixth Heineken Champions Cup final.
Sexton will captain Leinster in today’s Champions Cup final against La Rochelle, as the province looks to add a fifth star above their crest to equal Toulouse with the most titles in Europe’s premier club rugby tournament.
The 36-year-old has no lack of experience in European finals although he isn’t afraid to admit that he still feels plenty of nerves ahead of a game of this magnitude.
In fact, Sexton revealed that he is feeling more pressure than ever as his penultimate season with Leinster nears an end.
Johnny Sexton on the tortuous build-up to finals.
“You think when you get a little bit older you’d be a bit more relaxed, I think it’s been the opposite,” Sexton admitted.
“When you know it’s your second last chance to try to win this it puts a bit more pressure on. The good thing is you learn how to deal with it. It’s been as a build-up to a huge game is, it’s nervous.
“I’m excited in the same way and it’s tough at times. You torture yourself sometimes in the build-up but hopefully it’ll all be worth it come kick off.
“Once the game starts the nerves go out the window and you just get into the game and it’s like every other game.”
GAME DAY 👊
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 28, 2022
Big names return for both sides.
Leinster received a significant boost as Tadhg Furlong and James Lowe recovered from injury in time in order to be named in the starting team, while Ciaran Frawley has recovered from a facial injury to earn a spot on the bench.
La Rochelle have welcome giant Australian lock Will Skelton and France full back Brice Dulin back to their starting line up, although former All Blacks duo Victor Vito and Tawera Kerr-Barlow have been ruled out due to injury.
Leinster’s pack will be well aware of the damage that Skelton can do, after a physically dominant performance which helped La Rochelle to a victory against the Irish province last year, although he has just returned from injury and may not yet be back to full fitness.
If La Rochelle hope to win today, physicality at the break down will be crucial, as Leinster showed against Toulouse in the semi-final that if they get quick ball they are near impossible to stop.