Sexton in a 'good place' ahead of World Player of the Year vote

Sexton in a 'good place' ahead of World Player of the Year vote

Richie Murphy feels Jonathan Sexton could hardly be better positioned to scoop the World Player of the Year award in Monte Carlo this weekend.

The Ireland skills and kicking coach has known Sexton since the latter's days in the Leinster academy and believes the Ireland out-half is currently in the middle of one of the best periods of his career as the vote approaches.

“Yeah, it's very fitting,” said Murphy on Tuesday afternoon. “I've known him since he was in the Leinster academy and he's always been a very driven player, massively talented and unbelievable head for the game.

"That's where he stands out for me above a lot of the other players who are out there: his ability to see things on the pitch and pick the right options.”

Sexton has been nominated for the prestigious

New Zealand's Beauden Barrett, winner of the prestigious World Rugby award the last two years, is also up for the latest gong, along with his countryman Rieko Ioane and the South African pair of Faf de Klerk and Malcolm Marx.

“He's in a really good place,” Murphy added on Sexton. “There have been some high parts of his career and he's in one of them at the moment.

He's in great form, he's working hard, his fitness levels look really good. He's in a really good place at the moment.

It was put to Murphy that Sexton had maybe been playing more of a quarterback role lately, standing back and directing traffic as opposed to immersing himself in it, but the coach didn't see that as an argument that holds water.

“He's still doing all that hard work, so I don't see that as being a massive change in how he has approached the games.

"He's still the guy getting off the line making the tackles. I remember last season in the Six Nations him having a pick and go near the line.

Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“So that's not a guy who is trying to look after himself. I don't think he's ever played the game like that and I don't think that will actually happen.

"His ability to stay on the pitch ... maybe his fitness levels are a little bit higher than what they were 12 months, 18 months ago.”

Sexton, and a number of the players who featured in the defeat of the All Blacks three days ago, will be on a weekend off this Saturday as Ireland take on the USA at the Aviva Stadium.

A tall order for the others, if ever there was one.

Amid the euphoria of that win, there is the germ of a fear that Ireland may have peaked a year too early in this World Cup cycle – just as the All Blacks did so many times prior to 2011.

Murphy is adamant, however, that there is even more to come.

“Well, we've done a review process and we still feel there is a lot of stuff that we can be better at. The one thing that I would say about this team, this group of players and management staff is that we're always looking to improve.

“There's never been a situation where I've been in where that's good enough, do you know what I mean?

"With what's coming up, obviously this match at the weekend and leading into the Six Nations, we'll be trying to find another gear and that's just the way it has been.”

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