Gordon D’Arcy Answers The Question: Sexton or Jackson Against France?

Who would you start?

Johnny Sexton looks to be progressing well and is in line to be fit in time for Ireland’s crucial Six Nations clash with France in Dublin.

The Leinster playmaker hasn’t played for Ireland since their clash with the All Blacks back in November, with his Leinster comeback cut short in the Champions Cup after a few brief cameos. Paddy Jackson on the other hand has excelled at ten for Ireland and has been one of Schmidt’s star performers at the Six Nations, making the official team of the week for two consecutive weeks and leading the charts in a number of areas.

The Ireland boss himself has admitted he now faces a difficult decision when it comes to selection against France. Gordon D’Arcy has been discussing the matter today in his Irish Times column and he feels Sexton has to get the nod.

Paddy was good in Rome, his kicking off the tee immaculate and that sort of reliability always influences a coach’s mind, but I don’t believe there is a decision to be made here.When France come to Dublin on Saturday week, a sufficiently recovered Sexton wears number 10. It’s not about what Paddy can or cannot do, has or has not done, it is what we know Johnny will do.

The former Leinster and Ireland centre uses the battle at ten that once existed with the All Blacks, noting a fit Carter at his best, even now- would start ahead of Beauden Barrett if he was still in New Zealand.

There is an argument to suggest Sexton, by his mere presence, is holding Jackson back. But that’s just the way it goes. In 2015, Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett was not a rivalry. When fit, Carter played because of a developed knowledge – which saw him get into position to drop the goal that guided New Zealand into the World Cup final – that came from over a decade living in the high pressure environment of Test matches.
Skip forward 12 months and Carter is playing for Racing while Barrett was voted world player of the year. But if Carter was still at his best, and living in New Zealand, Barrett would be coming off the bench at fullback.
At some stage Paddy Jackson will step out of Johnny Sexton’s shadow. It’s only then we might see a similar jump from incredibly talented player into something else, the next level, wherever that may be. Like Barrett did.
There have been plenty of encouraging signs, especially at the Stadio Olimpico, but he continues to be blocked by a fit Johnny Sexton.

D’Arcy says at the end of the day it’s Sexton’s decision making that will get him the nod at the Aviva.

My rational is based upon Johnny’s decision making. Jackson is steadily improving his accuracy but Sexton came into the Leinster number 10 jersey as a fully formed outhalf. Granted, he had to wait until he was 24-years-old. Sure, there were bumps on the road in the 2010 and 2011 seasons – as he gained the necessary experience while trying to fend off Rog (which, considering their competitive similarities, was never going to be a simple case of one replacing the other) – but when Johnny came on for Felipe Contepomi in the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final all the necessary tools were already in evidence.
There is a clear mindset behind his approach: if I drive people, it makes them better and they make me better as a result. That’s his singular unwavering mindset.
An uninjured Sexton still starts.

What do you think? Do you agree with D’Arcy?

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