Head to head: Johnny Sexton v Owen Farrell
In some respects the two competitors are mirror images in terms of qualities
Jonathan Sexton at a Leinster training session in UCD during the week. Photograph: Inpho
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)
Weight: 92kg (14st 6lbs)
Why’s he so important? He provides shape and definition to Leinster’s attacking patterns, is a courageous defender and a phenomenal competitor. If Leinster are to win then his place-kicking is also likely to be a key component of that victory. He is a lightning rod for Leinster’s best performances; when he purrs so too do the team. He is a player to whom his team-mates look and generally that pressure and responsibility sits easily on his shoulders. He can get distracted or sidetracked every now and again and Saracens will try and get to him in whatever way they can but on examining Leinster’s outstanding performances during his time, Sexton is invariably at the epicentre.
Trivia: It’s unlikely that Felipe Contepomi and Johnny Sexton will forget Friday, January 27th, 2006 – albeit for different reasons. Contepomi captained Leinster to a 62-14 win over the Border Reivers and earlier that morning, according to Gerry Thornley’s match report, his “partner Paula gave birth to their first child Catarina”. The current Leinster backs’ coach was replaced on 75-minutes by a 20-year-old Sexton, who was making his Leinster debut that night. It’d be fair to say he’s done alright since.
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
Weight: 94kg (14st 11lbs)
Why’s he so important? In some respects he’ll see a mirror image in terms of qualities when he looks across at the number 10 in the Leinster jersey. Farrell is a fierce competitor, relishing the physical side of the game to a point where his tackle height has been injudicious on occasion. He has a superb temperament which he has shown for club, country and the Lions and if Leinster are undisciplined then he will extract a heavy tariff. He has a great range to his passing and kicking and if given any platform will put his team into the right places; that allied to the vision that he brings in putting teammates into space makes him such an outstanding player.
Trivia: He made his Saracens debut on October 5th, 2008, against the Scarlets, 11 days after celebrating his 17th birthday and in doing so became the youngest player at the time to play a professional rugby match in England. He was the inaugural winner of the Anthony Foley Memorial trophy in 2017, awarded to the EPC Rugby European Player of the Year.