Ireland captain Rory Best believes Johnny Sexton is in no need of a gentle arm around him as he dismissed England boss Eddie Jones’s comments about the fly-half’s health as “a sideshow”.
Speaking on the eve of today’s showdown between Ireland and England at Twickenham, Best described Jones’s mind games as gamesmanship in reference to the Australian saying on Thursday that he believed Sexton’s parents would be worried about their son’s well-being following the “whiplash” neck injury he suffered against France a fortnight ago.
“Everything else, apart from the rugby for us, is a sideshow that we don’t want to get involved in,” the Ireland hooker said after leading his team’s captain’s run workout at Twickenham yesterday.
“All we know is that Johnny is a key player for us. He’s a quality player.
“We haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to (Jones’s comments). We’re just looking at ourselves and making sure we’re right.”
Best added: “It seems to be as time goes on, more and more people are trying to start these type of gamesmanships.
“I would never question a coach of Eddie Jones’ experience and capabilities. That (approach) is for them, that’s how they deal with it, we’ll deal with it differently.”
Asked if he had felt the need to put an arm around Sexton to check if everything was all right with the player and his family, Best replied: “I think if I put an arm around Johnny he’d definitely be wondering what’s wrong.
“Johnny’s a very, very strong personality. He’s got an unbelievable will to win and he’s a competitor. He doesn’t need an arm put around him.
“He’s the gauge of where our standards are because he expects the highest of standards.
“Whenever he’s reasonably happy — because he’s never happy — you know you’re in a fairly good place.
“Teams have targeted Johnny or said they’re going to target Johnny and I’m sure that will continue in the future.
"He’s a big boy, he can deal with it and obviously family is very, very important to him and I’m sure he’s been talking to them but in terms of an arm around Johnny, he’s the life and soul of not just our senior player group but our collective.”
The Ireland skipper added: “I think he thrives on the big occasion and we’ve talked about it already that Twickenham against England is one of the big occasions.
“It’s 80,000 people, a great atmosphere and they are the games Johnny enjoys playing the most and I think you’ll see that tomorrow.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved