Sexton urges Ireland youngsters to step up to the plate
3 January 2013 11:47
Jonathan Sexton wants the next generation to help fire Ireland to victory in the RBS 6 Nations
Fly-half Jonathan Sexton is challenging Ireland's youngsters to make the step up and lead their country to victory in next month's RBS 6 Nations.
Declan Kidney's troops have endured a tough 2012, finishing third in last year's RBS 6 Nations before suffering three consecutive defeats to New Zealand in the summer.
After learning his trade off the more experienced campaigners in the Ireland set-up, Sexton wants to help lead the next generation to RBS 6 Nations success.
Sexton will be one of the more experienced players when Ireland's campaign kicks off against last season's Grand Slam winners Wales on 2 February.
And the 27-year-old Leinster man, who has 34 Ireland caps, now wants the newcomers to produce at international level in a changing of the guard.
"Playing with guys like Brian O'Driscoll has been an honour for me and I'd put a lot of other players in that bracket - you learn so much from these guys," Sexton told the Irish Independent.
"Those guys earned their reputations by producing in an Ireland jersey year in, year out, but it is time now for the younger guys to come in and start taking ownership of the team.
"The younger guys, we've produced on occasion but we haven't done it consistently and that's what we need to do now going forward.
"People probably think I'm a new boy because I look about 15 but I'd say I'm somewhere in the middle. I've just turned 27 so it's up to people like me to take charge of the team.
"I found it hard when I first came in because Ronan O'Gara had been the outside-half in that team for ten years and I wasn't sure whether the guys would listen to me in the same way they had listened to him - they are the kind of doubts you have when you come in."
England's preparations for the Autumn International series were potentially dealt a further blow as Maro Itoje was forced to undergo an x-ray after Saracens' European victory over Scarlets on Saturday night.