Jack Crowley talks up ‘true leader’ Johnny Sexton after his Ireland return

Sexton starred on his first competitive appearance since Six Nations Grand Slam success in March.

Ed Elliot
Sunday 10 September 2023 10:15 BST
Johnny Sexton returned for Ireland against Romania (David Davies/PA)
Johnny Sexton returned for Ireland against Romania (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)

World Cup debutant Jack Crowley believes fellow Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton showed “the type of man he is” with his seamless return from almost six months on the sidelines.

Captain Sexton starred on his first competitive appearance since celebrating Six Nations Grand Slam success in March with a 24-point haul, including two tries, in Saturday’s 82-8 demolition of Romania.

The 38-year-old received a standing ovation from tens of thousands of Irish fans when replaced 15 minutes from time before understudy Crowley came on to land four successful conversions on his tournament bow.

Munster playmaker Crowley, who only made his Test debut in November, has been inspired by Sexton’s resilience and dedication to overcoming setbacks.

The 23-year-old is also ready when required to step in for his influential skipper looking ahead to Pool B fixtures against Tonga, South Africa and Scotland.

“It just shows the type of man he is, the preparation he puts into his training and the mindset he has,” Crowley said of Sexton’s comeback.

“That’s the type of leader he is: through actions. You could see that it doesn’t matter if he’s out for nine months, 10 months, he’s always going to perform because of the way he prepares. He’s a true leader.

“Of course, you’ve always got to be prepared (to fill in). You can’t be presuming or assuming anything.

“His level of preparation to get his performance is something that I learn from and I will try and do and put into action. You always have to be ready.”

Ireland’s thumping 12-try triumph in the blistering heat of Bordeaux was their biggest World Cup win.

Record-breaking Sexton shrugged off his lengthy absence through injury and suspension to surpass Ronan O’Gara as his country’s highest points scorer at the tournament (102) and John Hayes as Ireland’s oldest international.

Crowley feels he and fellow back-up number 10 Ross Byrne enjoy a “special, special relationship” with the 2018 world player of the year.

“Being in camp over the last 10, 12 months has been massive to be able to learn from him,” he continued.

“To see the way that he’s been out for the last couple of months, the way he’s applied himself to training and the way that he applies himself to preparation and everything like that is massive.

“You saw that it wasn’t just by fluke that he performs the way he does, the way that he can do certain things.

“To be able to come on for someone like him, for myself and Ross to learn from him, and the three of us to be able to bounce ideas off each other is a special, special relationship.”

Crowley has leapfrogged provincial team-mate Joey Carbery and, seemingly, Byrne to become Sexton’s first-choice replacement.

You could see that it doesn't matter if he's out for nine months, 10 months, he's always going to perform because of the way he prepares. He's a true leader

Jack Crowley on Johnny Sexton

The Test rookie, who helped his province win the United Rugby Championship last season, admits the prospect of playing at the World Cup initially felt like a distant dream.

“As a young fella, you’re always looking at World Cups and Six Nations and wanting to be involved in it but you never really think that it’s possible because you’re so far back with where you are,” he said, following his seventh cap.

“But just staying in it and going through the levels and earning your rankings is massive.

“I’m very grateful where I am right now but I think it’s more that I’m in a special group of players and staff that are providing me with the opportunities to be the player that I can be.”

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