Brian O'Driscoll meets Johnny Sexton: ROG, retirement and Heineken Cup chase

Brian O'Driscoll catches up with his former teammate Johnny Sexton for BT as the Leinster captain looks to lead his side to a record-equalling fifth Heineken Cup crown
Brian O'Driscoll meets Johnny Sexton: ROG, retirement and Heineken Cup chase

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - MAY 27: Johnny Sexton catches the ball during the Leinster Rugby captain's run at Stade Velodrome on May 27, 2022 in Marseille, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Johnny Sexton has always been a very driven sportsman and that has never been more apparent than in Leinster's drive for five.

He and Cian Healy are the only men who have been involved in all four of Leinster's previous European triumphs who are in the matchday 23 for tomorrow's final clash with La Rochelle.

Speaking to former teammate Brian O'Driscoll in an interview to be broadcast on BT ahead of the final, Sexton reveals how his nerves compare to his first final in 2009.

"It’s very similar, the nerves are there already," said Sexton.

"The fact that we lost the last one (2019 against Saracens), you can't help but think what we could have done better.

"We probably didn’t get the build up right, we had three weeks without a game and we’ve learned our lesson from that.

"We were so fit running around but when it came to the Saracens game the contacts killed us."

"The desire to get to five is huge. We’ve spoken about it from day one with Stuart Lancaster," said Sexton.

"The day Stuart came in and talked about five we all looked each other and said ‘has he seen us play lately?’ "We had just lost to Connacht in the Pro14 final and I’d say we were at an all-time low at the start of the next season.

"The job him and Leo [Cullen] have done over the last few years has been great, to get to another final and to be going for five in a row in the United Rugby Championship is a testament to them.

"It’s an amazing environment to be a part of.

"When you’re in the latter stages of your career, if things weren’t as enjoyable and the people weren’t as good, I’d walk away 100 per cent but it’s too good!

"They’re all so competitive and ambitious, I’d say I love these lads now I love as much as the generation before."

A lot of the build-up has been dominated by the Sexton-Ronan O'Gara rivalry. Two former competitors for the same position, then former player and coach, their dynamic has always fascinated Irish sports fans.

"La Rochelle had never reached a final before and now they’re on for three in a row, which is a phenomenal achievement.

"Rog has done a fantastic job there, but he’s not playing… so I don’t know why it’s being made me against him – but I’m sure something will be made of it.

"I still stay in contact with him, not as much as we used to because he’s so busy.

"He’s been to three clubs now as a coach and he’s always been successful."

Sexton turns 37 next month so questions of retirement are never too far from the surface. He has said previously that he would retire after the 2023 World Cup but doesn't rule out staying longer.

"I always had this dream after the last World Cup to get to another one because I feel like we’ve got unfinished business," he said.

"But the body still feels good, so never say never! We’ll take it season by season."

That decision can wait as all the out-half's focus is on getting the job done with Leinster tomorrow.

"If we win this weekend it will be up their with the team that went back-to-back," he said.

"You’ve got to be a special team to go back-to-back, and we won three in four years, so I wouldn’t put us in that bracket yet.

"If we have the dream season: win in Europe and put the fifth star on the jersey and we went five in a row in the URC then you have to at least be talked about in that bracket.

"Getting that fifth star will at least put us in that conversation!"

The full interview will be broadcast in the build up to Leinster vs La Rochelle on Saturday 28 May, from 4pm on BT Sport 2HD.

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