Old, new, borrowed and blue all on Sexton’s mind
By Simon Lewis
THERE will be no let-up for Jonathan Sexton at the end of a long tour with the British & Irish Lions, the Ireland fly-half has a wedding to return to this week, a move to Paris and a new career with Racing Metro.
Sexton, whose 28th birthday is on Thursday, has enjoyed a dream conclusion to life with Leinster, winning both the Amlin Challenge Cup in Europe and the RaboDirect Pro12 title before steering the Lions to a first Test series victory in Sydney on Saturday.
He will be back in Ireland less than 48 hours when he marries fiancee Laura Priestly at Adare Manor, Co Limerick on Friday and after a one-week honeymoon in the USA the newlyweds will begin life in France, with Sexton joining Racing’s pre-season training on July 29 alongside new assistant coach Ronan O’Gara and his Lions team-mates, fellow new signings Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate.
“Everything’s been ticked so far. I wanted to finish the season on a high with Leinster and two trophies, did that and then this,” the Lions fly-half said.
“Hopefully I can stay out of trouble tonight and get home in one piece for the wedding on Friday.
“I haven’t even thought about (Racing) yet. Dan (Lydiate) and Jamie (Roberts), we’ve had a joke — ‘we’re in there in three weeks’. So not much of a break. Rog was on to me. He’s been over there for the last couple of weeks.
“It’s been a whirlwind these last few weeks and obviously another big chapter in my life coming up with the switch. It’s been crazy. I haven’t even had a moment to digest actually finishing up with Leinster and moving to a new club. I suppose that will settle in now over the next few weeks.”
Sexton enjoyed his best game of the tour in the Lions’ 41-16 win over the Wallabies, scoring a try and orchestrating a backline free to express themselves off the platform delivered to them by a dominant forward pack.
“We showed a little bit more with the ball. We didn’t play as well as we did in the warm-up games but in Test matches it’s all about grinding it out.
“We were all fired up. (Defence coach) Andy Farrell spoke brilliantly yesterday to the squad about having a different type of mentality, ‘We’re Lions and we have to be a step above what we expect at international level’. The lads really produced that. Outstanding in defence, outstanding up front and we showed some glimpses in the backs of what we were doing in the warm-up games and got a couple of nice tries near the end.”
For Sexton, one of three Irishmen alongside Bowe and Sean O’Brien in a team dominated by 10 Welsh players, his first Lions tour has been memorable on and off the field.
“It’s been a brilliant experience being part of it and for it to be a success is even more special. We’ll celebrate hard for the next few days and the banter’s great in there.
“I said to the lads, ‘it’s an unbelievable memory to make my first Welsh cap, one I’ll remember forever.’ It’s good craic and that’s why it’s so special.
“This is huge for me, totally different. You’re playing with guys you barely know. You have to forge that bond and I think you saw by the celebrations that we did that. We did the Lions tradition proud.”
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