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Ireland’s Six Nations Campaign: A Tale Of Two Out-Halves

Johnny Sexton Paddy Jackson Ireland

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has some tough decisions to make over the remaining Six Nations games as Leinster’s Johnny Sexton returns to the fold for international selection. 

Sexton has been Ireland’s star player for the best part of the last five years, but now there is a new kid on the block, Ulster’s Paddy Jackson.

Sexton and Jackson are both very talented players in their own right, and the Leinster star got the nod for the France showdown.

Guinness Series, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 19/11/2016 Ireland vs New Zealand Ireland’s Johnny Sexton Mandatory Credit

Former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll weighed in on the debate declaring that a fit Johnny Sexton is the right choice.

There is no doubt that Sexton is a gifted player and the success he has brought to both Leinster and Ireland is almost unparalleled in the modern game.

The form of Paddy Jackson has been quite sensational though and the Ulsterman was steering the ship as Ireland cruised past South Africa and battled past Australia.

He is stepping out of Sexton’s long shadow, and Ian Madigan’s move to Bordeaux has given the 25 year old his time in the limelight.

RBS 6 Nations Championship Round 2, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy 11/2/2017 Italy vs Ireland Ireland's Paddy Jackson kicks a penalty

Jackson has been showing all the skills that have made him a favourite at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. The fly-half has an attacking gameplan that works for his province and now his country, creating space for those players outside him.

Sexton’s injury-ridden season could also get a lot worse. The Leinster talisman is surely harbouring ambitions of travelling with the Lions to New Zealand, Gatland has said however that the Leinster fly-half will have to prove his fitness if he is to play on the 2017 tour.

There is no doubt that when the 31-year-old is fit he is a class act and his aura alone is enough to lift the team. The team look to the fly-half for guidance and he offers that more than Paddy Jackson could dream of at this moment in time.

Sexton’s leadership is outstanding, he will bark the orders, lead the line and give Ireland some much needed direction as it seems all roads lead to Dublin on the final day of the Six Nations.

It seems Sexton’s place is all but safe though, according to Richie Murphy, team coach.  

“Johnny gets picked like everyone else, he has no divine right to get picked. Will he get picked? That is a decision that has to be made.

“I am not trying to create any confusion. All I am saying is that there will be a decision made on the back of how he has performed over the last two days.

“Paddy Jackson has been brilliant. We have been very lucky that while Johnny has been out Paddy has been stepping in and filling that gap really well, since probably last summer.” Quote via BBC.

This could signal a changing in the guard and a position that will feel very alien for Sexton who has been in possession of that coveted green jersey for a number of years without any real competition.

Paddy Jackson is very much in contention to knock Ireland’s golden boy off his perch as Ireland’s number 10.

Joe Schmidt has tough decisions ahead, but it looks as though Sexton’s era of dominance over the Ireland 10 shirt could well be over.

Sexton gets the start against France, and has thus won the battle, but may not win the war.

Fred Blagden, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.