Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Sexton used to being replaced

Jonathan Sexton
Jonathan Sexton

Jonathan Sexton insists he is growing accustomed to Ronan O'Gara replacing him from the bench.

Sexton has won the latest tussle to become Ireland's fly-half and will start Sunday's RBS 6 Nations opener against Wales at Aviva Stadium.

In the past when the 26-year-old has been coach Declan Kidney's preferred choice, he has found himself waiting for O'Gara's entrance. Only now, after 24 caps, is he beginning to adapt to the situation, but admitted: "I wish my place was guaranteed."

He added: "Obviously with Ireland there's a little bit more looking over your shoulder than with Leinster because Ronan is on the bench," he said.

"It's something you have to get used to, knowing somebody is ready to come on if things aren't going your way. It's probably something that I've struggled with a little bit. But you learn a lot with setbacks.

"Hopefully I'll not be as bogged down about it. I can play my own game and try to do the best for the team. I've come off after 60 minutes when I've been playing well for Ireland. I've just got to make the most of my time on the pitch.

"Sometimes you feel like you just want to go out and put it all in the first 50 minutes. But you have to think about the team."

Sexton entered last autumn's World Cup as first choice fly-half, only to see his wayward goalkicking surrender the jersey to O'Gara. It was a painful experience that continues to haunt a player who is viewed as a better all-round operator than his rival.

"I beat myself up a bit at the time. It's probably something that I've struggled with a little bit," Sexton said. "But you learn a lot with setbacks. Obviously I place-kicked poorly in a couple of games.

"That can happen to any place-kicker but unfortunately it happened to me on the world stage in the two biggest games of my career. It still doesn't sit well with me that it happened then, something I'd been building up towards for a couple of years. It still hurts but I've tried to move on. That's life. You move on from it. I've a lot of good people around me."

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