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Sexton playing 'too far back' to have the right impact | Keith Wood

With Johnny Sexton back in the news, Keith Wood and Niamh Briggs discussed how Ireland's game pla...


Sexton playing 'too far back' to have the right impact | Keith Wood

With Johnny Sexton back in the news, Keith Wood and Niamh Briggs discussed how Ireland's game plan is influencing his position - and vice versa.

Wood and Briggs joined Wednesday Night Rugby ahead of Ireland's crucial match with Wales, and Wood believes that Ireland's position on the pitch is off.

"I still believe we're too deep. I think Johnny was too deep for an awful lot of the game," Wood said.

"The reason I say that is that when he passes the ball, he is virtually ignored by the defensive line and it puts a lot more pressure on the players outside."

Johnny Sexton

With Sexton responding angrily to comments made by Dr Jean-Francois Chermann on Wednesday,

"I read that article by the French doctor and so much of what he said was really good. But it was personalising it to Johnny Sexton was wholly and entirely inappropriate.

"The idea of playing on the line, and maybe we didn't do it because we were down to 14 men [...] I just feel we are a better team when we attack the line more. I do feel that we haven't been doing that for a while.

"It shows often the importance that we place on Johnny Sexton on the doubt that we have over who the successor is.

"We have a lot of out halves in Ireland at the present time, but it is an injury away. Johnny may or not play this weekend - whatever they decide is right - but if he doesn't, who are the guys we have and how much do we trust them?"


As to why Sexton is playing where he is, Wood believes an aspect of coaching has developed to preserve the number ten.

"It is because he gets clashed and tackled heavily all the time because that is what happens to tens," Wood said of the reasons behind his positioning.

"I think there is an element of [preserving Sexton] in the way that we've played for a long while. We haven't played where he takes it to the line for three or four years.

"I think he has gone back a bit, depth-wise - I think he is too far back. I don't think he needs to be taking it on the gain line and opening himself to get smashed [...] but, for me, I felt that we were too far back."


"I wonder whether it is not self-preservation, but a lack of pace," said Briggs of Sexton and Ireland's tactics.

"He can't really get through that gap any more, I don't think. Is it a case of chipping the ball to 12 or 13 as quickly as possible so he is there then to marshal the next phase?

"Maybe it is self-preservation but I just feel that with the injuries he's had, and with age, you just lose a little bit of pace.

"I do wonder if it is a case of him not being able to get through that gap, and that can all be solved by a winger coming off the line and going through the gap for him. But we are so used to box-kicking that they are so used to staying out wide.

"We are so used to the structure that I don't think that we play to our strengths."

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