Irishman Johnny Sexton returned to the field on Saturday September 9 after six months of absence. Despite his 38 years and a string of injuries, the fly-half still wants to hurt for Ireland, which he dreams of taking to the firmament before retiring. And on September 16, against Tonga, he can become the best director of the Clover XV.
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“What’s the record today Johnny?” The question was not asked to fly-half Johnny Sexton by a journalist after the Ireland – Romania match but by his coach Andy Farrell, with a smile on his face. Because there were two records: Johnny Sexton became the oldest Irish international on Saturday September 9 (38 years and 58 days) and against the Romanians he equaled the record for points scored by a player in the XV Ireland (24) in a World Cup match.
If the Irish opener is delighted with these records, he hopes to be able to beat another, much more prestigious, quickly: the number of points scored by an Irish international. With 1,074 points in 114 caps, he is currently behind Ronan O’Gara who has scored 1,083 in 128 caps. The latter has known, since his sporting retirement in 2013, that Sexton is eyeing his record. And the milestone could be reached on Saturday September 16, against Tonga.
Johnny Sexton returned to competition on Saturday September 9, against Romania, after a forced six-month break. Having undergone adductor surgery, the emblematic fly-half and captain of the XV of Clover had not played since the spring and was unable to participate in the preparation matches of the XV of Clover due to a suspension. In stifling Bordeaux heat, he played 65 minutes, covering 27 meters with ball in hand and making only 4 tackles.
“I needed a match to test myself” declared Johnny Sexton after the big victory (82-8). “I hope I can improve on my performance against Tonga. It will be a much bigger challenge next week, no disrespect to Romania, so there will be things to improve on but I am delighted with the five points we we took and the gap in the score.
A “wonder” to protect
The Irish daily The Irish Times did not hide its admiration after this successful introduction by the Irish. “It’s truly a marvel,” enthused the newspaper, emphasizing his role as a metronome for the Irish team. A future retiree who still shines with the precision of his foot and the quality of his passes.
Johnny Sexton has announced that the 2023 World Cup, the fourth of his career, will mark the end of his playing career. “I want to go to the top,” he declared in March 2022, when his contract with the Irish Federation was extended. With him, the Irish team reached first place in the world rankings, which it has held for more than a year. And she is logically eyeing the Webb Ellis Cup.
The Irishman will then be able to give his body and mind some well-deserved rest. The numerous concussions he suffered during his career are a cause for concern for many rugby observers. To the point that a controversy arose last summer, during the Irish tour to New Zealand: Sexton was hit hard in the head during the first match and left after 30 minutes. His presence on the field therefore seemed impossible for the second test match, a week later. However, he was a good starter for this second match, ensuring that he had not suffered symptoms indicative of a concussion. He then largely contributed to the victory of the Greens (23-12), the first obtained by Ireland against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
This very physical player with a volcanic temperament has never considered putting away his crampons due to the risks to his health. At least not publicly… However, he is well aware of the illnesses that affect many former professional rugby players, early victims of senile dementia or cognitive disorders. But Johnny Sexton wants to see the end of his incredible career during which he has already accumulated numerous titles with the national team and with the province of Leinster. Because he still has a few records to beat… and a cup to add to the green jersey.