Rugby Club: Jonathan Sexton talks about his British and Irish Lions dreams and nightmares
Jonathan Sexton reveals how the Lions affected his form and reveals his finest Leinster memory.
Last Updated: 10/05/13 1:50pm
The Leinster fly-half, who will be playing for Racing Metro next season, is one of two No. 10's heading to Australia with the British and Irish Lions in June. With Jonny Wilkinson apparently turning Warren Gatland down, Sexton will battle it out with England's Owen Farrell for the Test jersey and while he is likely to be Gatland's first choice, he is more than happy to play as much as he can in the red jersey.
"I'm talking about a Lions red jersey - not the other red jersey," joked Sexton on the Rugby Club. "I don't want to get my uncles down in Munster too excited.
"You always daydream a bit about the Lions - when you find yourself doing that it is always about winning for the Lions, winning a Test series. I have a lot to think about before that, but it is exciting times. I did not really believe it until my name was read out especially after the injuries that I had.
"You want to cherish every moment of playing in a Lions jersey so I won't be complaining if I am asked to double up. I am looking forward to getting over there and playing with Owen, getting to know him and to learn from him.
"I would have loved it if Jonny Wilkinson got picked as well. I would have loved to have seen him on a day to day basis and learn from him."
Despite all the excitement of the Lions tour, Sexton admitted that the pressure of being everyone's first name on the sheet for the tour down under sometimes got to him.
"I felt that at the start of the season the Lions was affecting my performances. Everything I was doing I was thinking: 'Would Gatland be watching this?'
"It is not healthy and you have to concentrate on what is important at that time."
Sexton has recently recovered from a damaged a tendon in his foot sustained in Ireland's Six Nations campaign. But he has bounced back in fine style helping Leinster to the Amlin Challenge Cup final against Biarritz - just one of the trophies he is determined to lift before he leaves for France.
"I have a big opportunity ahead of me and I am determined to finish on a high this season. I have three more games and hope to win another two trophies - the Amlin Cup and the RaboDirect PRO12 Trophy, " added Sexton.
"It is very strange. At the start of my career I never thought I would play anywhere else - even at the start of this season I never thought I would be playing anywhere else but Leinster. But things happen that you don't expect and you have to deal with it.
"I always pictured myself to be 35 and retiring having only played for one club but at the same time not many players have the opportunity I have been given.
"Once I knew staying at Leinster was not going to happen it was basically look to France. Go and test myself and learn a new language. I went over and had a look at Racing Metro who had a new vision and a new ambition. A new coach is coming in and I guess it is a new project that I am really excited about.
"I have had the benefit of being at Leinster when we were not so successful and watching the club grow - hopefully I can bring those experiences to that environment."
Jonathan Sexton will be forever part of Leinster folklore as he inspired the Irish province to Heineken Cup glory in 2011 - their second European title in three years. 22-6 down at half-time to Northampton, Sexton delivered an inspirational speech to his team-mates. Using Liverpool's comeback from 3-0 down to win the Champions League as inspiration, Sexton went on to score 28 points including two tries to secure a 33-22 win. And it is that game that is his favourite Leinster moment.
"Nathan Hines' try sticks out - the subs were warming up just before that and that was a moment where we stretched our lead to 11 points. They all sort of charged in to celebrate with him. I remember Fergus McFadden and Richardt Strauss just jumping up and down - that was the moment I knew we had done something pretty special."
Sexton may be moving from his beloved Leinster for pastures new but is delighted that he will still be working with his former boss Joe Schmidt, who is also leaving Leinster to take over the Ireland job
"I think the Munster, Ulster and Connacht lads will soon find out that he does not hold back in meetings no matter who you are. That was one of the things that struck us when he first came in to Leinster.
"He spoke to Brian O'Driscoll the same way he spoke to a youngster coming in playing for the first time. Brian had probably not been told off for years in a Leinster jersey - he just about ruled the place. Suddenly this guy came in and caught all the senior players by surprise. Once the other guys from the other provinces see that he treats everyone the same I have no doubt that he will progress us on the pitch 100%."