Wayne Pivac has warned the Scarlets not to focus too much on Johnny Sexton ahead of their Champions Cup semi-final with Leinster.
The Scarlets head coach is wary of the talents of one of world rugby’s leading out halves, but has urged his side not to take their eyes off other threats.
Sexton has been targeted throughout his career, a sign of his influence as a playmaker, but the Scarlets are one of the few sides to have successfully rattled the British & Irish Lions star, overcoming Leinster in last year’s PRO12 semi-finals.
“Hopefully, he gets the flu or something between now and kick off, because he’s that good a player,” joked Pivac.
“He is extremely influential for them. We put a lot of pressure on him last year and had some success.
“I guess it is no secret that all teams will try and put some pressure on the out-half and bring some line-speed to put him off his game, but as good as he is, he is only one player and I think if you focus on one player, it can free up space for other players, such as Garry Ringrose and James Lowe.
“We can’t afford to fall into that trap. He is just one of 15 players that we are going to have to keep an eye on and we need to be very, very good, defensively.”
Pivac is confident his side will cause Leinster problems at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, but admits they need to take every opportunity they create if they are to stand any chance of winning.
This is the West Walians fourth appearance in the semi-finals of European rugby’s premier provincial competition, having suffered last-minute heartbreak courtesy of two late penalties against Northampton in 2000 and Leicester in 2002.
The former Auckland coach has, however, backed his side to go one step further and reach their first Champions Cup final.
“We are well aware of our history in this competition,” he said.
“It’s an 80-minute game, we know each other very well. We are in the same competitions as Leinster, so we play each other a lot and know each other well.
“The beauty this year is we’ve played each other twice, but neither side was at full-strength, due to the fact both games were during the international window.
“Realistically, it’s a first clash since that semi-final last year and I know Leinster will be very disappointed with their performance that day, so they’ll want to rectify that.
“It could come down to the team that makes the least amount mistakes, the most disciplined. It was a very close affair last time we played them in that semi-final.
“We’re going to have to be up for this game, both mentally and physically. It’s going to be a huge challenge, so we have to be prepared and ready to go into those trenches.”
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