Johnny Sexton comments on rumours he could take up role at Leinster
O’Gara championship record in his sights as veteran plays down Leinster coaching chat
Jonathan Sexton is in line to smash Ronan O’Gara’s Six Nations point scoring haul against Scotland this weekend.
But the Irish out-half said he would be just as happy if he didn’t land another successful kick once his side were guaranteed to remain on track for a first Grand Slam title since 2018.
O’Gara, himself a Grand Slam winner in 2009, currently sits atop the Irish pile with 557 points in the championship but Sexton is only seven points behind and, given Andy Farrell’s side’s impressive scoring return, will almost inevitably surpass his erstwhile rival this weekend.
However, the captain’s focus is primarily on ensuring that Ireland tee up a St Patrick’s weekend Slam showdown with England next week.
“It's something that people say to you or you see it on social media,” said Sexton, who revealed he is fully fit after missing the Italy game when 150kg of Uini Atonio collapsed on his groin against France.
“Irish Rugby tagged me in something today, which I wasn't too happy about! It's there but I don't think it's going to add any pressure to me or anything like that.
“It's not something I ever set out to do. I'd rather not score another point and win a championship, win a Grand Slam than get the points record. It doesn't bother me too much. If it comes, fantastic, but it's not something I lose sleep over.”
Sexton, who began his international career with an unblemished seven successful kicks against Fiji in 2009, agreed it would be a nice achievement but irrelevant given the broader context of his side’s vaulting ambitions as number one team in the world.
“It would be a bonus but it's not in my thoughts. My thoughts are about making the team win.
“If the right decision is to go to the corner and pass on points, I will do that. It's nothing really. But if you do it, it's an amazing mark to do. Ronan obviously had an amazing career and even just to be in that same conversation is enough for me.”
Sexton is also the leading conversion taker in the championship, on 97, a mark eight ahead of Johnny Wilkinson, with Owen Farrell the only current rival with 86.
When it comes to penalties, he may yet get a chance to claim top spot here, as O’Gara currently leads on 109, followed by Wilkinson (105) with Sexton and Farrell tied on 104.
In terms of the all-time Irish scoring record, Sexton remains 40 points behind O’Gara – 1,043 to 1,083 – from 17 less caps – and presuming he stays fit, that is another record he will claim in 2023.
Sexton will be hoping to crown a distinguished career with a Grand Slam and World Cup double, while his club side face the prospect of a predominantly home-based route to their own potential double, too.
He is then planning to retire but, as Leo Cullen announced a two-year contract extension as Leinster supremo, Sexton dampened down any immediate prospect of him joining his current provincial boss on the coaching staff.
“I would never say never because again, you never know what life is going to throw at you. It's not in my plans straight away.
“I don't think it would be right straight away if offers did come in, it wouldn't be right for me to go in and coach with guys that I've played with for the last number of years, and I certainly wouldn't want to jeopardise this year because if they find out you're going in coaching, the relationship changes straight away.
“No, I won't be doing it for the foreseeable future anyway. But rugby is my passion. It's all I've known for the last 20 years, longer even, since I was a kid.
“I'll find it hard to step away from the game but I think it's important to do it, to step away, try another walk of life and then we'll see what happens.
“I’ll go and see if I can do something in the business world and get involved there. I've been doing a bit of work experience over the last two years, one day a week, so I'll go into that and see how that goes. But it might not be for me. I might get the itch straight away, come out of retirement and play for Mary's!”
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