Home Rugby “If He Changes, He Is Not The Same Player He Was”

“If He Changes, He Is Not The Same Player He Was”

We will find out later this afternoon whether Johnny Sexton will be leading the line for Ireland when they take on Italy in Rome on Sunday. 

Joe Schmidt’s team announcement will be interesting as the debate surrounding whether to provide valuable experience to fringe players ahead of the World Cup or to continue with the front-line players to develop form continues.

There is an obvious argument to hand Joey Carbery his first Six Nations start but due to Sexton’s lack of minutes since the turn of the year, there is also a need for Ireland’s starting out-half to find some form.

Johnny Sexton Richie Murphy

When Ireland kicking coach Richie Murphy was pushed on this dilemma at a press conference on Wednesday, he didn’t reveal to0 much as to what we could expect.

“I think every player wants to play,” Richie said.

“All the games that they can for their country. But I think he’s [Sexton] also balanced enough to realise that sometimes changes need to be made and you know, two guys are competing for a place and as coaches, it gives us an opportunity to get them to go against each other a little bit and try to get the best out of both of them. It’s a very good thing.”

Johnny Sexton
Johnny Sexton and Ireland kicking coach Richie Murphy

Sexton only lasted the first quarter of the game against Scotland last time out as he was removed for a HIA which he subsequently failed.

The 33-year-old’s tendency to play flat to the gain line means that he is often on the receiving end of some big hits immediately after he releases the ball.

There have been calls for Sexton to change the way he plays the game so that he can stay on the pitch for longer but Murphy believes that would be taking away one of his greatest strengths.

Johnny Sexton

“He plays flat on the line. When you play flat on the line, you are going to get hit. The thing is, obviously we don’t want him off the pitch, but there is definitely a fine line between what is fair and what isn’t fair. As long as the referees are able to judge that and decide that, Johnny is not going to change the way he plays.”

Murphy continued: “If he changes, he is not the same player he was. He doesn’t create the same holes for players that he creates for other people. Then there is no point in having him. It’s a two-fold thing really.

“The idea of him changing his game so that he can stay on the pitch doesn’t really fit. He needs to play the game he feels is best. He is a confrontational type of character, he wants to play on the gain line. He wants to create space for others. I can’t see that changing.”

About Sean McMahon

Sean is Head of Pundit Arena Rugby. Contact him on Twitter here: