Johnny Sexton: Ireland captain would trade World Rugby Player of the Year prize for victory over Wallabies

Johnny Sexton for Ireland Credit: Alamy
Johnny Sexton for Ireland Credit: Alamy

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has revealed he would rather beat Australia on Saturday than be named the prestigious World Rugby Player of the Year.

The veteran fly-half was nominated for the prize alongside team-mate Josh van der Flier, Springboks centre Lukhanyo Am and France star Antoine Dupont.

But the 37-year-old playmaker admits his focus is on the team and Dublin this weekend, insisting that he would trade the gong for a victory over Australia.

It has been a great 12 months for Sexton and Ireland as they have won a Six Nations Triple Crown, a series in New Zealand and beaten South Africa in 2022.

Ranked number one in the world

That leaves them on top of the World Rugby rankings list and that is where Sexton wants to be after this weekend, as he blocked any talk of personal awards.

“It is always nice to be recognised like that, I am not going to lie,” he said of his nomination, with the Leinster fly-half having won the award back in 2018.

“It’s not something you go searching for but to be recognised in that area is very special.

“I would prefer a win and to play well on Saturday than win that, because ultimately at the end of the day it’s opinion.

“Whereas what you produce on Saturday is what you see and it’s the only thing you can control. All my focus is on that and to be recognised is enough.”

Sexton started Ireland’s opening Autumn Nations Series victory over South Africa at the Aviva Stadium but injury ruled him out of the Fiji meeting last weekend, meaning it was a race against time for the experienced fly-half to be fit for the Wallabies game.

“Last week was a bit of a struggle with swelling and fluid and stuff like that,” he said.

“It was just managing that and then making sure I get the right amount of training in this week to be able to perform but also not do too much that swells it up again. It’s good to go, feels good and I’m ready.”

Improvements needed from Ireland

After some criticism from head coach Andy Farrell following the team’s performance in last Saturday’s unconvincing win over Fiji, Sexton believes recent areas of concern have been a whole squad issue, as he defended the players who featured last weekend.

“I don’t think it was second string,” he said. “I think it was the Irish team.

“And the majority of the first team were playing, that was why it was disappointing.

“There are areas of our game from the South Africa game – I’m not putting it all down to the Fiji game – that teams are going to come after us in a different way because we’re the number one team in the world or we’ve got some good results under our belt.

“They’re going to come after us and try to mess us up. Over the two games so far, we haven’t handled that as well as we would have liked.”

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