Since the Tour: Johnny Sexton
Tenacious and talented, it is no surprise Johnny Sexton has played in all six Test matches across the two British & Irish Lions Tours he has been on.
The Ireland fly-half was a key figure in 2013, as Warren Gatland’s side marched to a famous 2-1 series win in Australia, before again playing in all three Tests against New Zealand in 2017.
His partnership with fellow fly-half Owen Farrell helped turn the 2017 Tour around after the All Blacks surged to victory in the first Test, while he has gone from strength to strength since.
Long acknowledged as one of the finest fly-halves in the game, Sexton is still going strong at 35 and even took over the Ireland captaincy for the 2020 Six Nations.
With the 2021 Tour to South Africa on the horizon, the Leinsterman is one of the players being tipped for a third Tour when they take on the reigning world champions.
And in the latest part of our new series looking at what the 2017 tourists have been up to since, we take at look how Sexton has continued to lead by example for club and country.
Sexton opened his account in the first game where he kicked the first points of the Lions Tour in the 13-7 success against the New Zealand Barbarians.
The Leinsterman was a replacement versus the Blues and Crusaders before starting the 32-10 victory over the Maori All Blacks a week before the First Test, where he came on as a replacement.
He was selected to start a week later as the Lions levelled the series with a 24-21 success in Wellington.
The 32-year-old was instrumental in the classic loop move which saw Anthony Watson break down the right and eventually led to Taulupe Faletau’s vital try in that Test.
And the Irish fly-half started against the All Blacks once again in the third Test as the match, and a dramatic series, was drawn.
Sexton was part of a familiar partnership at half-back with compatriot Conor Murray but also linked well with England’s Owen Farrell in the 10-12 axis during the second and third Tests.
In total he played 383 minutes on Tour making 44 tackles and gaining 111 metres with ball in hand.
THE GRAND SLAM
Just months after the Lions’ Tour, Sexton reached one of his career highlights – a Six Nations Grand Slam with Ireland.
The fly-half got the ball rolling with a dramatic last-gasp drop goal against France in Round 1, after a 43-phase move from inside their own half.
Home wins against Italy, Scotland and Wales secured Ireland the title before they even faced England in Round 5 – but they went and beat their old rivals for good measure to win just the third Grand Slam in their history.
Ireland’s year got better after that, with a Test series win in Australia – where Sexton again starred – followed by four consecutive wins in the autumn, including a first ever home victory against New Zealand.
WORLD PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ireland’s amazing year earned them some end-of-season dividends at the glitzy World Rugby awards.
Joe Schmidt won Coach of the Year, Ireland won Team of the Year and Sexton himself won the World Player of the Year award.
“It’s been an incredible year for Irish rugby, to win everything we could, really. It’s been very special, and a few of us have ended up here tonight,” he said.
Ireland were beaten by England in the opening game of the 2019 Six Nations and were defeated by Wales in the last, while their World Cup ended in quarter-final heartbreak at the hands of New Zealand.
However, they could add another Six Nations medal soon, with Sexton the captain, with just two games to go.
Their fate is in their own hands, with two bonus-point wins against Italy and France enough to secure the trophy.
If Ireland are to do it, they’ll need Sexton at his best.