The 2018/2019 season will go up a few notches this weekend when the interprovincial derbies get underway and for Leinster’s Johnny Sexton, he knows his side will face a difficult battle when they take on Connacht at the Sportsground on Saturday.
Generally, Leinster will have good memories of last season where they secured a Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup double but Cian Healy revealed during the week that the eastern province’s heavy defeat to their western rivals at the end of last season was a low point.
In particular, John Muldoon’s conversion attempt at the end of the game, an action due to it being his last game for Connacht, resulted in a bit of “offence” being taken, Healy stated during the week.
However, when quizzed on whether this has stoked the fires ahead of this weekend’s eagerly anticipated clash, Leinster captain Johnny Sexton said that there was always a bit of needle between the two teams.
“Was it not always there?”, Sexton asked the gathered media.
“I always found that rivalry with Connacht, always. I remember going there when Michael Cheika was coach, I think we lost and there was a couple of red cards so there was a lot of needle back then as well. I think someone got sent off for a headbutt in one, another sent off for an elbow so if that’s not needle I don’t know what is.”
Former Leinster and Ireland winger Luke Fitzgerald recently said on his podcast that Connacht hate Leinster. Sexton believes this is something that comes with being from Dublin and the common ‘Dublin versus the rest of the country’ attitude.
“Welcome to the club, you’d probably get that [people hating Leinster] off a lot of people. It happens when you are perceived in a certain way. When you are from Dublin, and when you are perceived to be from Dublin, we’re not all from Dublin, you have this perception, maybe that’s where they get their kicks from.
“It doesn’t concern us much. Sometimes if you are successful a lot of teams don’t like you either. I’m sure a lot of teams don’t like us.”
As the reigning Guinness PRO14 and Champions Cup champions, there will be no shortage of motivation for any team to take a scalp off Leinster, however, you get the sense that this is a challenge that Sexton will relish and when you consider the way he plays the game, it’s something he will probably enjoy.