Former Munster & Ireland Star Weighs In On The Sexton/Jackson Debate
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Former Munster & Ireland hooker Damien Varley has had his say on the Sexton/Jackson debate.
Jackson has been one of the star performers at this year’s Six Nations but faces losing his place in the starting line-up against France with Sexton returning.
The Ulster playmaker tops the charts in a number of areas this year, including place-kicking and has been named in the official team of the week for both round one and two.
Former Leinster centre Gordon D’Arcy backed Sexton to start in his Irish Times column this week, but Varley thinks Jackson should be the man to start against France.
“I think I’d start Jackson and bring on Sexton against France,” Varley told the RTÉ Rugby podcast.
“You have to weigh it up; there is a lot to win in the short term but you have to always keep an eye on where we’re going.
“If Sexton keeps picking up these knocks… what is happening if we keep knocking everyone underneath him and sort of nicking at their confidence consistently?
“You have to look at [Jackson’s selection] as a stepping stone.
“Certainly he’s not to blame, there is no one individual to blame for the performance against Scotland. It was a good stepping stone last week [against Italy].
“You need to harness that and build on that.
“I mean the thing about Sexton is, it’s so contentious: is he going to be fit? If you start him, could he get a knock? [Of course] anyone could get a knock in the first ten minutes.
“But we have seen France treat Ireland that way where they just consistently flood his channel and bombard it.
“The guy is extremely brave, he throws his body, sometimes foolishly, into this.
“It’s a physical game; it has consequences when you keep putting your body on the line, which Sexton has done countless times for Ireland.”
Varley added that, despite the importance of the France game, Schmidt must take a long-term view with the World Cup in Japan just two years away.
“At some point you have to start bringing in fellas, building their confidence and letting them go in, even if it’s a half each,” said Varley, who won three Ireland caps.
“I think Jackson needs to be rewarded; we have to keep an eye on 2019.”