Lockdown makes Johnny Sexton realise he is not the retiring type

Lockdown makes Johnny Sexton realise he is not the retiring type
Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton has admitted life in lockdown has given him a taste of retirement he would rather put off for a while longer.

The Ireland captain, 34, was talking during a panel session at the IRFU’s Analytica 2020 webinar in aid of Pieta House alongside Dublin GAA full-back Jonny Cooper and major-winning golf caddie Colin Byrne when he was asked how we was making use of the Covid-19 lockdown which has seen professional players in Ireland stood down since March 20.

“One good thing for me is that it’s given me a bit of a taste of what retirement might be like and I definitely don’t want to retire any time soon,” Sexton said.

“I’m reading a book called Play On (by Jeff Bercovici) which (former and now part-time Ireland manager) Mick Kearney gave to me. It’s all about how all the top athletes played on until their late 30s early 40s and I’m reading it like the Bible at the moment and taking in every bit of it.

“My wife’s trying to throw it in the bin every chance she gets but it’s been a good time from that point of view, trying to really sort of start again. That’s the way I’m looking at it.” Sexton also echoed new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell’s assessment, expressed before the start of this season’s Six Nations, of the dangers of “paralysis by analysis”.

“Under Joe Schmidt, we used to defend a certain way for maybe two or three games in-a-row on purpose because we had a big game coming up down the line that we were going to surprise a team with.

“You don't want to be in that bracket of analysing a team to an inch. You have to still have an element of being able to play the game.” The fly-half also suggested Ireland’s World Cup quarter-final humbling last October by New Zealand, a team Schmidt’s side had beaten twice in their last three meetings was a case of pre-game analysis being misdirected. Asked for memories of matches when little of what is prepared for comes to pass, Sexton replied: “Lots are coming to my head in terms of mistakes, but they weren't based off the back of analysis.

“Maybe if you go to the New Zealand quarter-final – when a team that you have analysed and you think you have got the beating of, and you know you have had them the last two (out of three) times you have played them, and in many ways you maybe should have beaten them by more than the last two times.

“Then suddenly you come out and just start (against) a totally different team, a totally different beast. That could be one that we maybe should have gone and looked at individuals as opposed to teams, and realised what we were up against.

“Hindsight is a great thing as well when you are talking about analysis. Everyone is a genius in hindsight.” 

Sexton was also asked by IRFU lead performance analyst and webinar moderator Vinny Hammond whether he had calculated the low percentage of success attached to his long-range winning drop goal against France in Paris in February 2018 which began Ireland’s run to the Grand Slam “Not knowing the statistics in that scenario is probably a positive. If I had known the percentage of drop goals that go over from there, I probably wouldn't have taken it on.

“We had been going for five minutes (of phase play). Guys were out on their feet. It's the end of a long game, very physical. We weren't going to get a penalty. Lots of things were coming into it.

“It was a case of: had I got one from here before? Yeah. Do I have it in the bag? I think I do. Let's not die wondering.

“You have to have a shot. If you never had a shot there, I don't think anyone would have blamed you because I think a lot of people were blaming me as the ball left my foot – Joe Schmidt, you, Andy Farrell, all were cursing me!

“Everyone I know pretty much said the same but that is where experience from knowing that you have done it before comes in.

“It's amazing, I hit a drop goal against Treviso that no one will remember, again one minute to go from the exact same range.

“I knew it was there but again, I practised so much every week. Only a few long-range goals but they are something you practise from time to time.”

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