Jamie Roberts has called for Ireland to stop selecting Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray as the pair are unlikely to be around for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Against France, neither Sexton nor Murray started for Ireland in a Six Nations match for the first time since 2011, which goes to show how reliant the country has been on the half-back duo.
Roberts, a former British and Irish Lion, was speaking on the RugbyPass Offload podcast and stated his belief that it was time for Ireland to look to the future.
“The Murray and Sexton thing – look, I think Ireland have to move on,” Roberts said.
The pair have driven Ireland’s success for years but is it time for Ireland to move on from the British & Irish Lions duo? 🇮🇪#SixNations @ChristinaMahonx @Jamiehuwroberts @ryanwilson89 pic.twitter.com/jBfKZuw3zq
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 20, 2021
“Are Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton going to be the starting half-backs at World Cup 2023? And have Ireland got a chance of winning it if they are? I say no. When do you make the change?
“Look, they’re both fantastic players and they’ve been brilliant for Ireland. Only Andy Farrell knows how much longer those lads can play on.”
‘Ireland have to work out how they want to play’
Ireland have struggled to evolve under Andy Farrell following Joe Schmidt’s departure after the 2019 Rugby World Cup and they remain predictable in attack.
While they have reiterated their intention to play a more attacking brand of rugby, Farrell’s side have struggled to open up opposition defences.
Roberts believes Ireland’s team selections are largely responsible for their stagnant attack, comparing the national team to the more free-flowing Leinster.
“Ireland – like England – have to work out how they want to play. If they want to play like Leinster with this really quick speed of ball… Everything’s about speed of ball with Leinster,” Roberts explained.
“If you’re going to play that sort of game you can’t pick Conor Murray at nine. Gibson-Park has to play.
“Johnny Sexton is obviously in a successful Leinster side and has the ability to play that game but isn’t as much of a running threat as Billy Burns.
“John Cooney is another one for me where it’s a minor miracle that he’s missing out on that Ireland nine selection debate. Top player for his club, seems like he has all the attributes to thrive in test rugby but he’s not really had the chance.
“So I think Ireland have to figure out how they want to play, first and foremost, and pick players that will allow them to play that way.”
Sexton will again start for Ireland when they take on Italy in Rome this Saturday, while Conor Murray misses out due to injury.