The ‘challenging’ advice Johnny Sexton gave new Ireland captain

Colin Newboult
Ireland captain Caelan Doris on the charge v France in the 2024 Six Nations.

Ireland captain Caelan Doris on the charge v France in the 2024 Six Nations.

New Ireland captain Caelan Doris has been taking captaincy advice from the great Johnny Sexton ahead of the back-row’s big day on Sunday.

The Leinster number eight, who is lining up at openside against Italy, will take on the responsibility for the first time from the start of the match.

Doris took over as skipper in their Six Nations opener against France after Peter O’Mahony was sin-binned and then replaced in the second period.

Injury and retirement

With O’Mahony nursing an injury, the 25-year-old will lead the country against the Azzurri in Dublin on Sunday and has sought advice from Sexton.

The legendary fly-half was Ireland’s long-term captain before he retired from the game following their Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat last year.

Asked about his emotions in being handed the task, Doris said: “Delight was the initial feeling but also nerves and excitement and finding my feet in the new role.

“There’s been a bit of mixture of all that but it’s a pretty cool honour to have for the week.

“I was even on the phone to Johnny there during the week.

“There are a few key figures for us who aren’t involved this week but I’ve been leaning on them big time.

“The main one (piece of advice) has been ‘be yourself’.

“The tendency is seeing Pete and seeing Johnny doing such a good job in how they do it and thinking, ‘how can I emulate that?’

“But their message has just been ‘be yourself’ – being authentic is the best way to lead and finding my own way to do it, which is challenging at times but it’s been good.”

Chosen over James Ryan

When Sexton was playing and also captaining Andy Farrell’s men, James Ryan was often selected as his deputy, but the second-row has got on the wrong side of referees at times this season.

Ryan was demoted by the match officials in successive Champions Cup matches and he has now been overtaken as Ireland skipper by Doris.

“Stuart Lancaster (former Leinster coach) would have tried to push the leadership bit out of me, and the same with Faz (Farrell) in camp over the last number of years,” the back-row said.

“I’ve been in the leadership group for a couple of years, but it’s an area I do want to develop and want to continue to grow, whether I’m in the group or in this role this week.

“It does cause a bit of stress and there’s more responsibilities that come with it but it’s definitely rewarding too.

“Just talking to Faz this morning he basically said to do it in your own way and that you don’t need to have these big speeches prepped.”

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