‘Johnny Sexton has good points but has weak points too’

Ireland outhalf’s former team-mate Bernard Le Roux aims to put Dubliner under pressure

France’s Bernard le Roux in action against Italy at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

France’s Bernard le Roux in action against Italy at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Accidentally enter the tranquil Vale of Glamorgan by the back gate, so stumble across a bearded man, socks around ankles, practising drop goals.

Slow up like we’re about to commit a drive-by. Is that...?

Day 22 of this World Cup and only three drop goals have split the posts. But the tournament changes now. Freddie Michalak languidly punches balls back to Romain Teulet (Les Bleus kicking coach). Freddie glances at the car load of Irish journalists and keeps punching away.

Chilled vibe continues as we creep past Gareth Bale and the Welsh football squad skipping through their paces ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Zenica where they face Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Nod to the security guards who nod back. Into car park. Birds tweet in the trees as French journalists, coaches and players intermingle freely.

Serge Blanco ambles past with manager jacket caped over shoulders like the Count of Monte Cristo reborn. A rugby immortal, his aura undimmed.

Bernard Le Roux is offered to the Irish gaggle. We are instantly sated. The mindset seems polar opposite to Celtic Manor. What can we do to give you something interesting and positive to write about? A friendly Racing Metro 92 flanker of South African extraction?

Of course we can’t help but soil the sheets. Like Blanco’s cape, politeness is eventually discarded as we bowl into incessant Johnny Sexton questions but not before a hilarious exchange about Le Roux’s defence coach.

Bernard, tell us about Rog?

Second Captains

“A brilliant coach with all his experience. Such a brilliant lad as well. He makes a lot of fun around the team, his whole vibe, he lights up the team with his personality. Coaching-wise for the kickers and the backs it’s brilliant the way he sees the game. He sees things the way no other people see it. He tries things no other teams would. He’s got an awesome vision for the game. I think he will go far.”

As a defence coach he must be interesting?

“[Laughing] We got this whatsapp group at Racing where we all post texts. The other day someone posted a pic of someone running over Ronan – ‘Ah, our defensive coach!’ and straight after Alexandre Dumoulin posted a clip of all Ronan’s highlights of his career with – ‘Just shut up, mate.’”

Forthcoming

There follows eleven questions concerning Sexton. It’s the line so we walk it. Seven hundred words worth of answers come from the forthcoming Moorreesburg mountain. Here’s the abridged version.

“Good mate of mine. We had a really good relationship. Him and his wife lived just a few houses from me so I would walk over to him every now and again for a coffee. Obviously played with him for two years. A brilliant player.

“He’s so hard on himself. So precise. Obviously a guy to look out for this weekend. Really good kicking game that puts a team under pressure but if you put him under pressure it can change the game. He has good points and weak points.”

He’s a better player for two years of daily interaction with O’Gara, was Le Roux’s rational.

Did the 12-week lay-off for concussion seem excessive?

“No, because I could actually see he was struggling. Like I said, he’s a good mate of mine. He had a lot of headaches. He wasn’t well. He didn’t look well. He looked tired, probably for a month. I told him I had never seen him look as tired. He just looked drained and obviously that was from the bang he had on his head.”

What sort of team-mate was he? “If you’re a metre light or a metre short you can hear as he tells you straight out and not nicely,” he laughs.

“He just goes mad sometimes. Like I said, he is hard on himself, a perfectionist. That is why he is playing rugby and all credit to that, he is not a bad bloke.

“I know off the field and on the field he always wants the best out of all his players. That’s why he pushes everyone around the park a lot and he talks a lot. Like I said, he doesn’t always communicate in the best way but he still communicates in a good way and he gets the most out of the players around him. So all credit to him.”

Working to be perfect

But the task master and storied behaviour of Sexton at training, is that not how to lead men?

“That’s rugby,” Le Roux responds. “Eighty minutes on the field, you lose yourself and you don’t have respect for your body. Afterwards we’re all mates, have a beer and forget what happened on the field. But it is good while you are working to be perfect. Everybody wants to win, so if it can help us win that is good.”

Dan Carter has some boots to fill.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.