Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Sexton: I will miss Wilkinson on tour

Leinster's Jonny Sexton has two finals to play before he can think about British and Irish Lions duty
Leinster's Jonny Sexton has two finals to play before he can think about British and Irish Lions duty

Leinster fly-half Jonny Sexton has revealed he would have loved the opportunity to learn from Jonny Wilkinson had the Englishman been selected to tour with the British and Irish Lions this summer.

Wilkinson, 33, was a high-profile omission from Warren Gatland's 37-man squad named last month, with Sexton and Saracens' Owen Farrell the two number 10s selected.

Sexton, whose Leinster side face Ulster in the PRO12 final just a week on from an Amlin Challenge Cup final date with Stade Francais, may only face opposition from Farrell for the fly-half berth but would rather have the experience of Wilkinson alongside him in the squad. "A lot of people have said to me that it is great he wasn't picked because it gives me a better chance now," he said.

"But I look at it the other way. I would have liked him to go and would have loved to have learned from him, he is a bit of a legend. I obviously looked up to him when I was 16 and he was winning the World Cup with England."

Sexton will move to French Top 14 side Racing Metro following the Lions tour, after just under a decade turning out for his boyhood club. He admits he may sneak in a few French lessons during his time away on tour and is feeling in good shape after an injury lay-off earlier this season gave him time to recuperate.

"Hopefully I've used up all of my injuries for the year over the past few months," he said. "It feels strange to be so fresh at this time of the year - I feel I'm just starting after the fact I've had two months off and I have played four games since [returning from injury] means I feel great.

"I'm starting to get a bit of match fitness and sharpness back, so hopefully I will peak at the right time for the two finals with Leinster and then the tour."

With Sexton's Leinster and Ireland team-mate Brian O'Driscoll missing the first Lions' squad meeting in London due to a slight back injury, the idea of not making the tour will be picking away at the players until the first test in Brisbane on June 22.

But although Sexton admits the threat of injury remains constant, if is not something that is playing on his mind during the important fixtures coming up.

"Since the squad has been picked, at the back of the mind you're praying that it doesn't happen," he said. "But once you get out on the pitch your competitiveness comes through and it is the last thing you think about. It is about winning and there are two finals with Leinster, it isn't like they are friendlies. Two competitive games, high pressure, they are the sorts of preparation you want."

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