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Sexton isn't prepared to pass torch quite yet

Lack of proven back-up and IRFU planning mean veteran can fight on

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Hands on: Jonathan Sexton is striving to stay around for as long as he can

Hands on: Jonathan Sexton is striving to stay around for as long as he can

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Hands on: Jonathan Sexton is striving to stay around for as long as he can

Irish rugby may still be muddling through with its plans to deal with life after Jonathan Sexton's retirement, but it seems clear the player himself is perfectly adept at making his own plans for life after Irish rugby.

On a day when Munster Rugby dithered, with understandable caution, on the possibility of Joey Carbery making a return to the competitive fray, the ageless warrior Sexton confidently declared his fitness after missing his last international with concussion.

There is no end to the 35-year-old's indefatigable quest to extract every ounce in an effort to prolong his career.

And no beginning to the IRFU's indecision in ensuring that they are best-placed to pick up the pieces when the day dawns when Sexton's body refuses to obey the demands of his mind.

Until that day, Sexton remains the superior option at out-half; a factual declaration which is not necessarily mutually exclusive from an opinion which suggests that he should not always be deemed an automatic starter.

And yet, because Ireland are near the bottom of the Six Nations table, they appear to have little choice but to play him this weekend, if not alone for the immense value he offers, but also to reject the unknown consequences of deploying a myriad of less satisfactory options.

Andy Farrell need only pay heed to history's recent lesson to warn him that Rome is the last place one decides to pursue over-vaulting ambition.

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Among its many ruins lie those of an Irish coach; in 2013, Declan Kidney's campaign of fatal hesitation in ending Ronan O'Gara's international career would ultimately hasten his own.

O'Gara was so old and experienced he discarded much of the acquired wisdom that had enabled him to handle the pressures, and he wobbled in a strangely poignant and dismal ending.

Sexton doesn't see such a scenario in his future; neither, for their part, do his bosses, David Nucifora, who writes the cheques, and Farrell, who hands him the captaincy of his country. But it seems that only one of them is assured enough in himself to know how the story ends.

Sexton spoke yesterday of how it may do so, keenly aware that a month after Tom Brady's latest escapades, his own longevity has always been a talking point, wryly blaming erstwhile team-mate Isa Nacewa for claiming he could play until he's 40. And then again, he spoke of the present and the future as an ever-evolving thing; he may not be entirely in control of his circumstances but it doesn't look as if those running Irish rugby are quite as on top of things as they should be.

And so, with neither Sexton nor those in charge deeming the successors worthy, his reluctance to bow to the dignified exit demanded by so many observers seems understandable.

As he mused yesterday about his role in this World Cup cycle, hinting he may not be there in two years' time, we pressed him for a reason as to why he was amplifying such thoughts now.

"What am I going to say?" he said. "That I'm guaranteed to be at the next World Cup at my age? It was a throwaway comment."

Leinster coach Felipe Contepomi has previously told of Leinster's plan, with young No.10s coming through. Unlike their national team, succession planning seems to be working just fine for them.

Sexton's task will be to delay that day of reckoning for as long as possible.

Belfast Telegraph


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