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Opinion: Why Jonathan Sexton Must Travel On The Lions Tour

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 15: Jonathan Sexton of the Lions celebrates scoring a try during the match between the Waratahs and the British & Irish Lions at Allianz Stadium on June 15, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Warren Gatland’s coronation as head coach of the British and Irish Lions last week has sparked great deal of debate. Who will travel to New Zealand, and who will miss the cut?

One of the positions causing the most debate is out-half. Should Dan Biggar lead the line? What about Owen Farrell or George Ford? There is little talk about Jonathan Sexton, and Welsh journalist Stephen Jones doesn’t even think he should travel.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 15: Jonny Sexton of the Lions looks on during the match between the NSW Waratahs and the British & Irish Lions at Allianz Stadium on June 15, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The outspoken pundit is not alone in his thoughts.

To be fair, it is a valid argument. The Leinster and Ireland fly-half struggled with form in the second half of last season, and Paddy Jackson made a case for a starting berth on the national team during June’s tour of South Africa.

However, there are few fly-halves in world rugby who can touch Sexton, when fully fit. The Dubliner earned a reputation as arguably the globe’s premier 10 at a stage last year.

Injury in the World Cup victory over France spelled the end of his tournament, and in truth it took him months to get back into the groove, only to be sidelined once again.

Joey Carberry and Paddy Jackson have excelled for Leinster and Ireland respectively in his absence. However, when Sexton is back fully fit, there is only one show in town.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - FEBRUARY 14: Jonathan Sexton of Ireland celebrates victory after the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and France at Aviva Stadium on February 14, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. Ireland won the match 18-11. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

The All-Blacks are fast closing in on a record run of consecutive test victories, and appear more dangerous than ever. Beauden Barrett is setting the southern hemisphere alight, and the tourists will need an answer.

Over the past number of years, Sexton has silenced many young pretenders wearing his opposite number. Think Handré Pollard 2014. Think Owen Farrell 2015. Sexton is the one fly-half at Gatland’s disposal capable of bossing Barrett.

Sexton is a bully when it comes to opponents. He does not back down to reputation. Screaming into Ronan O’Gara’s ear during the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final showed a bullishness; he means business.

If selected, he would attack Barrett, get in an early hit, and put the Lions on the front foot. He could get inside the Kiwi’s head.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 08: Handre Pollard of South Africa and Jonathan Sexton of Ireland during the 2014 Guinness series International match between Ireland and South Africa at Aviva Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.

To add to his case, Sexton is a ‘Gatland player’. In the victorious tour of 2013, the Dubliner pulled the strings. He can execute the system.

Sexton has been there, done that on the biggest stage. Three Heineken Cups, two Six Nations, and countless impressive victories when the Irish were written off, when he was facing a supposedly superior fly-half.

Sure, there is the elephant in the room that is the 2013 loss to the All-Blacks. However, with front foot possession, which the Lions pack will be capable of offering, Sexton can control the game, better than Ford, Farrell, Biggar, or any other bolter than may emerge.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 18: Owen Farrell (L) of England celebrates with team mate George Ford after scoring the winning try during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and England at AAMI Park on June 18, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

To neatly wrap up the ramblings that you have been reading for the past few minutes, the message is that if fit, Jonathan Sexton must go to New Zealand next June. The condition only extends to if he has a run of fitness. When it comes to a player of his class, form will look after itself.

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Author: The PA Team

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