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Sexton a natural leader, says Welsh skipper Jones

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Dublin (AFP)

Johnny Sexton has earned the right to be Ireland captain said his Welsh counterpart Alun Wyn Jones on Friday.

Sexton's appointment by coach Andy Farrell prior to the Six Nations raised some eyebrows due not only to his being 34 but also a sometimes febrile temperament.

However, Jones said that people may snipe at a particular choice for skipper but in the end there is a good reason for the appointment namely that the head coach and the players believe he is the best man.

Jones, who has captained Wales since 2017 and led them to the 2019 Six Nations Grand Slam, and Sexton will cross swords at Lansdowne Road on Saturday with both having won their opening matches.

Sexton had said on Thursday he had studied how Jones has captained Wales.

"If he's been studying me it probably wouldn't have taken him very long," said Jones at his eve of match press conference in Dublin.

"There is an element of leadership which is learnt, but you also lead by doing what you do.

"Every leader is different, particularly in different positions.

"People are quick to forget what he has achieved in a domestic jersey which is sometimes more difficult than in an international shirt.

"It's funny when you come into captaincy as a new person, people put you under pressure to do something different and demonstrate more leadership, but ultimately you're put there because of who you are."

Jones, Wales's most capped player with 135 Tests, said Sexton's competitiveness makes him ideal.

"I've been shouted at a few times and that's what you need to do. It's stick and carrot," said the 34-year-old lock.

"The way Johnny plays is the biggest thing.

"Some people say his competitiveness can be a weakness, but I think that's most definitely one of his strengths.

"In the past he's dragged teams through whether that's with his leadership, kicking or his general presence."

- 'A mixed bag' -

Jones said the opening 42-0 whitewash of perennial whipping boys Italy had given the Welsh a great start but Ireland -- who began with an edgy 19-12 win over Scotland -- presents a far tougher task with Wales having not won in Dublin since 2012.

"There is plenty to work on going into this week and what is a much tougher ask, no disrespect to Italy," said Jones.

"We are aware of the win loss rate and the calibre of player they have, the domestic success they've had, and what they do for their provinces.

"It's always an ask

"It's a proper festival game even though it's a tournament game for the Six Nations."

Sexton had admitted their matches are always "spicy," although with Wayne Pivac having replaced Warren Gatland as coach the barbed remarks have been absent.

Gatland had never forgotten the undignified manner in which he was dumped as Ireland's national coach.

Jones said there is a mutual respect between the teams while Sexton said the Irish are stinging from the comprehensive 25-7 defeat last year which saw the Welsh clinch the Grand Slam.

"Coming out here it's a great place to play rugby in a tournament game in particular," said Jones.

"We've had a mixed bag in recent years with a few friendlies and warm ups, but coming out here there is no truer test and hopefully we'll be up for it tomorrow."

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