Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton insists he would rather beat Australia than be named world player of the year.

Tip-and-half Sexton has declared himself fit to face the Wallabies after missing his smashing 35-17 victory against Fiji last weekend due to a dead leg.

The influential 37-year-old led his country to a historic tour win in New Zealand, the Six Nations Triple Crown, top of the global standings and victory over this year’s world champions South Africa.

He was previously named World Rugby Player of the Year in 2018, but ahead of the autumn final in Dublin on Saturday he said he’s more interested in producing on the field than in individual awards, after being one of four nominees for the 2022 award.

“It’s always nice to be recognized like that, I won’t lie,” Sexton said of his candidacy.

“It’s not something you’re looking for, but being recognized in that field is very special.

I’d rather win and play well on Saturday, because at the end of the day that’s my opinion.

“What you produce on Saturday is what you see and is the only thing you can control. That’s my whole focus and recognition is enough.”

Sexton was shortlisted for the award along with Ireland and Leinster teammate Josh van der Flier, South African center Lukhanyo Am and France captain Antoine Dupont.

The Leinster star was injured in Ireland’s 19-16 win over the Springboks earlier in the month and revealed he was initially afraid of having to sit back down this weekend.

“We struggled a bit last week with swelling and fluid and things like that,” he said.

“Just managing that and then making sure I got the right amount of training to be able to perform this week but also not do too much was inflating it again. It’s good to go, it feels good and I’m ready.”

Lacking many key players due to injury, including their captain, Andy Farrell’s men stuttered in an unconvincing victory over Fiji.

Sexton rejects the notion that the much-changed first XV is a reserve squad and believes Ireland has not adequately coped with its current status as the world’s best team.

“I don’t think it’s the second line,” he said. “I think it was the Irish team.

“And the majority of the first team was playing, so it was disappointing.

“There are some areas of our game from the South Africa game – I’m not discounting it all to the Fiji game – teams will come after us differently because we are the number one team in the world or we’ve had some good results under our belt.

“They’re going to come after us and try to destroy us. In the two games so far we haven’t been able to handle it as well as we would like.”