Six Nations: Mike Gibson hails Johnny Sexton’s impact in Ireland’s successful run
Ireland great Mike Gibson has no doubts over Johnny Sexton’s continued influence over Andy Farrell’s side ahead of the Six Nations and hailed the veteran playmaker as ‘a phenomenon’.
At 37, Sexton captains Ireland’s quest for a fifth Six Nations title – and first since 2018 – when they tackle Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Vital to Ireland’s success
Gibson is unfazed by Sexton’s stronghold on the starting number 10 jersey and says that he is key to Ireland’s success in the competition and upcoming Rugby World Cup.
“He is a phenomenon,” said Gibson, who won 69 caps and played in 12 British and Lions Tests.
“He is a vital part of Ireland’s success because of his decision-making and his influence, which is something he has demonstrated for years.”
Ireland head into the tournament as the topped ranked side in world rugby and as one of the two favourites to win the Six Nations.
Last year, Andy Farrell’s charges won a Triple Crown, finishing behind Grand Slam champions France, before defeating the All Blacks in a three-Test series in New Zealand and claiming Autumn Nations Series wins over South Africa and Australia.
“It has been a wonderful time for us,” Gibson said.
“We have been successful against the All Blacks, successful also against South Africa and Australia, and these things make their mark on players.
“They can go out and say, ‘I’ve beaten New Zealand, so I can deal with any side’. The quality of the Irish game has attracted spectators.
“They watch the quality of Leinster, and from an international point of view, Farrell has been instrumental in allowing the side to play, to gain confidence, and the forwards are capable of dominating teams.
“We are number one in the world, which is something beyond dreams.
“The burden of being a favourite creates its own difficulties, but the expectation of the Ireland team is one of they can beat anybody. Everybody is making good sound decisions when they are in possession, which is key.”
Gibson believes that Ireland should be confident that they can beat any opposition.
“The basics are done well – they are done at speed – increasing pressure on the opposition, increasing the intensity of your own play and taking advantage of every chance to score points,” he added.
“We have beaten New Zealand five times in the last eight meetings, which is astonishing.
“I think they have every reason to be confident and to be proud of what they have achieved. It is a wonderful period.”
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