Jonathan Sexton can’t wait for clash with Jonny Wilkinson’s Toulon
Juan Smith set to come out of retirement to join Heineken Cup champions
Aaron Cruden is suffering with a knee injury and may not be fit for the All Blacks’ return match with Australia. Photograph: Getty Images.
Jonathan Sexton says he can’t wait for Friday night’s clash against Jonny Wilkinson’s Toulon when the two highest paid players in France will go head to head for the first time in the Top 14 .
It will be the first time the two kickers will battle it out against each other since Ireland defeated England 20-16 in February 2010. Sexton will be hoping to improve on his 50 per cent kicking return from his Racing Metro debut at the weekend when they struggled to edge past Brive 19-14.
Wilkinson was in top form, landing six from seven, as the Heineken Cup champions salvaged a 22-22 draw away to Montpellier.
The clash of Sexton and Wilkinson is set to pack Stade Mayol which will be live on television. “Apparently it’s a brilliant place to go, I’ve never been there before,” said Sexton.
“It will be another experience and I’m looking forward to it,” said Sexton.
He said he is looking forward to getting back into a regular routine after all the highs of the past few months, and he intends stepping up his work with Ronan O’Gara, who is now his kicking coach.
‘Working on the kicking’
“We’ve been working on the kicking for about 10 days. In the first week back you do so much running and leg weights, it’s hard to do anything on the kicking, but we did a good bit on it last week in Geneva.
“It has gotten off to a good staff and I kicked well last week and started off well against Brive. I had a couple of misjudgments and that can cost you, but we have something to work on during the week,” added Sexton. Former South Africa flanker Juan Smith is to undergo a medical as he negotiates a possible return to the game with Toulon just over six months after announcing his retirement, the French sports daily L’Equipe said.
The 32-year-old called time on his playing career in February after aggravating an Achilles tendon injury that had sidelined him for the previous 18 months.
If passed fit, Smith is likely to be offered a one-year contract, joining fellow Springboks Bakkies Botha, Bryan Habana, Danie Rossouw and Joe van Niekerk at the club, the newspaper said. Smith played 69 times for South Africa and was a member of their 2007 World Cup winning team.
New Zealand have further concerns at outhalf ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship return match against Australia, with Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett picking up injuries in the 47-29 win over the Wallabies.
Cruden, who replaced injured veteran Dan Carter for last Saturday’s opener in Sydney, was nursing a sore knee after his man-of-the-match performance, while his stand-in Barrett had sustained a calf injury, the team said yesterday.
Uncapped back Tom Taylor and 10-Test outhalf Colin Slade have been brought into the squad as cover for the pair, who missed training yesterday and were to have scans.
The rash of injuries in the pivotal position has revived memories of New Zealand’s struggles at the 2011 World Cup, where first-choice outhalf Carter and back-up Slade were both sidelined.
Injuries have also struck the forwards, with Liam Messam confirmed to miss Saturday after being a late withdrawal for Sydney with a hamstring injury and Luke Romano a doubt after suffering a groin injury.