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Sexton backed to give World Cup one last crack

Veteran status: Johnny Sexton is still a key man aged 34
Veteran status: Johnny Sexton is still a key man aged 34

By Des Berry

Felipe Contepomi is convinced Jonathan Sexton will give that maddening World Cup one more go.

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The Argentinian veteran of four editions of rugby's showpiece tournament believes Sexton (34) can follow in his boots.

"I haven't spoken personally with him, but I'm pretty sure he's not ruling himself out of the next World Cup," said the Leinster assistant coach.

"He needs to keep fit, definitely, and age is something you can't move backwards."

The arrows of anger that have been fired in Sexton's direction as one who should be moved aside to allow Joey Carbery to flourish are misdirected.

Coach Andy Farrell will muster every man and every asset to take Ireland forward.

"He's a guy, if he's frustrated, he'll always bounce back and get the best out of himself," noted Contepomi. "People say many things. You can't just listen to what everyone says.

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"It's fair enough. In the sport business, you have to understand people will say loads of things. It's what he wants, what he's willing (to do) that matters the most."

For Contepomi, it's about getting to 2023 in great shape which will determine how far forward Sexton's career will reach.

"That's the challenge in northern hemisphere rugby," he added.

"The seasons are so long, especially this year, it's moving on another month because the (Guinness PRO14) final is now June 20."

After that, there is the matter of two Tests in Australia on July 4 and July 11, a move difficult to fathom after such a drawn out, draining season.

At least the Player Welfare Programme is there to manage minutes.

"Taking into account it's six fixtures (Champions Cup) in three months and the interpros, then they go straight into the Six Nations. It's non-ending fixtures for them."

This is where Leinster's deep squad can be used to lighten the load of senior internationals like Sexton, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan.

"Definitely, it's part of managing and setting them up to be at their best," said Contepomi.

"That's the challenge we have as a team, as coaches, and also it's one of the lucky parts of being in Leinster.

"You have young players coming through, pushing boundaries and trying to make them stay at their best."

Usually the interprovincial derby against Connacht on Friday is a stepping stone towards round one of the Champions Cup next week.

It is likely Sean Cronin (neck) and Fergus McFadden (elbow) will not make it back in time for Benetton in Europe on Saturday week, the bulk of the frontline international returning to training yesterday.

Leinster's ability to do without their Ireland internationals over the course of the opening five rounds of the PRO14 is what feeds the confidence to not have to rush them back.

"We have a short week this week and that doesn't help in terms of training in terms of integration. We want them at their best," stated Contepomi.

"If it is this week, next week or two weeks' time that is what it is. We don't want to have them (involved) because of the sake of having them.

"It is about preparing them physically and mentally first and then in terms of our way of playing so we can set them up.

"We are not that worried in terms of the quantity of players we have back, it is about having them in their best shape.

"Once they are in their best shape they will be up for selection."

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