Rory Best and Tommy Bowe have disagreed on how often Johnny Sexton should feature for Ireland in the upcoming international season.
Sexton remains as Ireland’s captain and first-choice fly-half at the age of 36, and having signed a one-year contract extension last season, there is no guarantee that the veteran will make it to the next Rugby World Cup in 2023.
As the World Cup in France is less than two years away many sides are beginning to blood young players in anticipation of that tournament, but Andy Farrell looks likely to remain with Sexton as his starting fly-half for the foreseeable future.
Best and Bowe were speaking on BBC’s The Ulster Rugby Show and both had different views on what sort of role Sexton should play for Ireland over the next year.
Rory Best and Tommy Bowe disagree on Johnny Sexton.
“If I was Andy Farrell I’d [play Sexton] for Japan and New Zealand then bring in Joey [Carbery] for Argentina,” Best said.
“Even Italy and, the Scots will hate me, but even maybe against Scotland you can expose him there. As long as Johnny’s playing well enough that you’re getting the best from him.”
Bowe however, was of the opinion that other fly-halves need to be given starts in bigger games sooner rather than later.
“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t agree. I think that we need to start giving these guys an opportunity,” Bowe responded.
“Because the problem is if in a year’s time Johnny if isn’t at that level then all of a sudden Joey [Carbery] or Ross [Byrne] have missed out on those opportunities to play against the top teams.
“This is the issue, because what is Andy Farrell going to do? It is really difficult for him.”
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Ireland’s options at fly-half.
While it certainly isn’t ideal that Ireland’s first-choice fly-half is 36-years-old less than two years out from the World Cup, it is true that none of the younger options are currently playing at Sexton’s level.
Carbery looked like he was getting close to Sexton’s level a couple of years ago, but an injury-riddled couple of seasons have hampered his progress, although those injuries now look to be behind him.
Ross Byrne and Billy Burns have both been given opportunities in Sexton’s absence over the last year, but neither have been named in Ireland’s squad for the November tests after failing to make the 10 jersey their own.
22-year-old Harry Byrne has been included in Ireland’s squad ahead of his older brother for next month, which suggests that Farrell sees him as a more likely successor to Sexton than a number of older, more experienced fly-halves in the country.