Johnny Sexton: Current Leinster squad better than back-to-back Euro champs

BY Stephen Doyle 20:50 Thursday 11 January 2018, 20:50 11 Jan 2018

Johnny Sexton after scoring his try vs Ulster last weekend - ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

With names like Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Shane Horgan, Luke Fitzgerald, Isa Nacewa, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien on the list, Joe Schmidt's Leinster 2010/11 squad packed a pretty formidable punch.

Throw in Kiwi legend Brad Thorn for the following season and you have some of the top quality ingredients from Schmidt's recipe for back-to-back European Cup success.

A few of those men are still plying their trade with the Eastern province but with the way the current crop (37 players used so far this season) have been performing, there is a sense that this is the best squad that Leinster Rugby have ever produced.

This bunch of players won't be put on to a higher pedestal than their predecessors though, if they fail to increase the silverware collection up at UCD but the man who was the leading outhalf in all three squads believes the one he is playing in now is up there.

"Even the year we won it under Joe [Schmidt], those two [European Cups] back-to-back, I think our squad is probably a bit stronger now but it's probably more even," Johnny Sexton said this week.

"That team was probably littered with five or six guys that were way ahead of the rest of the group whereas now, we're all sort of in and around the same standard.

"Our squad has been tested as well. When you're missing in the back row, Jamie [Heaslip], Rhys [Ruddock] and Sean [O'Brien], arguably that could be your starting back row and suddenly they all have various injuries. It is being tested and we've been happy with how we've responded to the various injuries."

Perhaps happy with the response to the knocks they have had to deal with but not exactly one hundred percent happy with the performances on the field. Despite the fact the Blues go into Sunday's Champions Cup pool clash with Glasgow off the back of three impressive interprovincial victories and back-to-back wins against the best side the English Premiership can offer, Sexton bats away a question asking whether they are in their best form of the season.

"There was parts of our game against Munster in the second half and Connacht that we weren't too happy about," admitted Sexton. "I think we were happier with our overall performance against Ulster across the eighty minutes."

"The reviews haven't been very straight-forward. There's been lots that we've been working on and we've been trying to get better on. We need to because there's big challenges ahead, starting this weekend and then going to Montpellier the week after. It's two huge games for us.

"If anything those three games were to try and get us ready for these two. These are the biggest games of the season, rounds five and six, they always are. Generally you've always got something to fight for. It's a massive few weeks ahead."


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