Johnny Sexton must be careful not to antagonise referees now that he is Ireland captain, according to Brian O’Driscoll.
The former Ireland captain was speaking to Off The Ball and was unsurprised that Sexton has been named as captain for the upcoming Six Nations.
“I think there’ll be plenty of time for James Ryan in years to come to pick up that captain’s armband. He’s still very new to the international game.
“People are giving out about Johnny Sexton on, ‘How many games is he going to be able to play?’ and ‘He’s not here for the next World Cup.’ You don’t have to do a four-year cycle with the World Cup for the captain.
“You can do it year by year and do you know what? It gives James Ryan another opportunity to become a proper pack leader.
“With the transition of some of those senior forwards going out and some new guys coming in, there’s an opportunity for him to stamp his authority. I think it’s a smart move. I thought it was the obvious choice,” O’Driscoll said.
However, Sexton has been known to show his frustration at referee decisions in the past and his former teammate believes this is something he must be careful about now that he is captain.
“I think if that’s in your personality sometimes you don’t have to scratch too far below the surface to bring it out.
“I think it’s something he has to be very aware of, particularly as captain. As being the focal point and being someone to try to sway a referee into a certain way of thinking.
“I think he’s got to be very clear and concise with the way he goes and approaches referees and to not come across as antagonistic as maybe he’s done so in the past.
“That’s definitely something Andy Farrell will have spoken to him about it and I’m sure it’s something he would’ve thought about,” O’Driscoll commented.
Recently retired Ireland captain Rory Best was particularly good at dealing with officials and the former Ireland centre hopes to see a similar talent with Sexton.
“That will be vital to picking up where Rory Best left off because I think that was one of the hallmarks of his captaincy. That he was unflappable in respect to what sort of decision was thrown at him - good or bad.
“He was able to work referees well and get them on side and I think he had a great relationship with them.
“I think in those 50:50 calls as momentum is going in a different direction - when you have a good relationship with the referee it definitely helps your side when things are going in the wrong direction,” O’Driscoll said.
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