Why Rory Best has been such a brilliant Ireland captain, explains Sexton
Ireland star Johnny Sexton says the side want to make the most of skipper Rory Best's remaining days in a green jersey.
Ulsterman Best will play his final Six Nations game on Saturday against Wales in Cardiff (2.45pm kick-off) before signing off after the World Cup in Japan later this year.
Sexton, who will be seen as a possible successor to Best in the skipper's role along with the likes of Peter O'Mahony, admits the 36-year-old who made his debut in 2005 will be missed.
"He's been a brilliant captain over the last few years," said the World Rugby Player of the Year. "He's always team first. He's very selfless.
"He leads on the pitch with his actions, he leads off the pitch, and he's a great guy to have around.
"I think one of the best things is that when sometimes the lineout doesn't go well, if the right decision is to go to the corner, he'll take responsibility and go to the corner."
Sexton continued: “He knows that if the lift isn’t right or whatever, it won’t be his fault but immediately you guys (in the media) will blame him, but he just keeps going.
“That’s the sign of a brilliant captain, he does what’s right for the team all the time.
“He’ll be missed, but we’ve a lot of time left with him so we want to make the most of it.”
Ireland have recalled Leinster’s Dan Leavy to their squad for the visit to Cardiff. The flanker has yet to feature in the Championship thanks to injury but has recovered from a calf complaint and could come into the reckoning thanks to Josh van der Flier’s injury.
Ireland maintain an outside chance of retaining their title, although they need not just to win but also for England to slip up at home to Scotland.
Regardless of events in Twickenham, a win over Warren Gatland’s men would see Ireland’s Championship end on a high note after a rocky month.
Last week’s win over France was the first time they really looked like themselves after a loss to England and unconvincing wins over Scotland and Italy.
Nobody has come under more scrutiny during the competition than the side’s world-class scrum-half Conor Murray.
The Munster man, not long returned from a long-term injury, does not believe his form is cause for concern.
“Genuinely, I don’t see media and I think it is really important for me not to,” he said yesterday.
“I have felt good, I have felt really good. We’ve just been a little bit off for this tournament and Sunday was a really good step forward.
“During that time, you’ve to stay realistic and focus on what hasn’t been working.
“They’ve been small things, things you can easily fix.
“I wasn’t panicking and changing the way I’ve been training or the way I view the game or putting more pressure on, or trying harder within the group.
“My chats to the coaches were small things, small little fixes.
“I’m really realistic. I’m really honest with myself. I’m working with a couple of video analysts in here and in Munster.
“I’m looking at my game in detail and it hasn’t been much different. There’s been a few things I would have been upset with over the tournament.
“You can talk about form and what is form? It’s small things.
“Confidence-wise, obviously, you are trying to get to the level that you’re used to.
“In reality, it is only small little details that we’ve been working on and trying to fix. Sunday was a step in the right direction.
“There is another big one to come this weekend and we will try and put in another good performance, really get things going.”