Johnny Sexton was widely regarded as one of the best players in the northern hemisphere not too long ago but he has failed to inspire confidence for the most part in 2017.
To be fair to Sexton, he has had to cope with a number of difficult injuries and they have affected his ability to build momentum and regain consistency after long stints in the medical room.
However, Sexton has shown glimpses of quality in recent performances and he could be the difference-maker for Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions side in the coming weeks. In the first Test match, Sexton had a positive impact after coming onto the field off the bench and Gatland may consider handing the Leinster man a start – especially as Owen Farrell can shift to inside centre.
— Independent Sport (@IndoSport) June 27, 2017
Back in November, Sexton was instrumental as Ireland recorded their first victory against the All Blacks for over a century, also ending New Zealand’s run of 18 wins against top tier nations. Gatland should consider taking a leaf out of Joe Schmidt’s book as the Lions attempt to do the unthinkable and beat the All Blacks on their own turf. Sexton has the knowledge, experience, and talent to lead Gatland’s men for the remainder of the tour.
After the Lions, attention will turn to the Autumn Internationals ahead of what could be a fiercely competitive Six Nations. This year, Ireland were very disappointing, losing to Scotland and Wales before beating Eddie Jones’ England on the final day. All in all, it was a mixed campaign for the Irish, and Sexton, who missed a few games through injury, will be looking to redeem himself and make a positive impression next year.
When it comes down to it, who makes Ireland’s attacking unit tick? Sexton is the answer. In the future, Paddy Jackson will take over the mantle but Sexton is still an elite talent at the position and he can fire England to the Six Nations title next year.
Jones’ side will be red hot favourites but Ireland may relish the opportunity to head into the tournament as outsiders; just as they did against New Zealand. If they can find another gear, punters betting on Ireland in rugby union sportsbetting markets, such as those available with bitcoin betting site Sportsbet.io, might be laughing come next March.
It is all ifs and buts at the moment but Ireland’s contest with England at Twickenham could determine who comes out on top in the race for the Six Nations crown. With the right game plan, Schmidt can utilise Sexton to exploit England’s defensive unit and the Leinster man’s kicking game could wreak havoc. That match won’t necessarily be the only factor in deciding the destiny of the title but it will certainly be very important.
Schmidt has a 67% win rate in charge of Ireland and Sexton has been a pivotal figure during his three-year tenure at the helm. Ireland fans will be hoping that the 31-year-old can get back to his brilliant best ahead of a big 2018 for the nation and he could lead Ireland into the World Cup year with another Six Nations title in the bag. Watch this space; Ireland and Sexton will mean business next year.