Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton reflects on a few photographs from his career

Before Johnny Sexton got stuck into his preparations for Ireland‘s November Internationals against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina, we asked him to give his memories from a selection of photographs from his career. You can read his ‘My Life in Pictures’ feature in the December 2017 issue of Rugby World, which goes on sale on 31 October, but here is a little bonus content as Sexton discusses another four photos…

A ROAR TO REGRET, 2009

Johnny Sexton

War of words: Johnny Sexton shouts at Ronan O’Gara after a Leinster try. Photo: Inpho

“This is not one of my proudest moments and I wish I hadn’t done it. We’d had a run-in the month before in the Munster-Leinster fixture, so it sort of carried over into this Heineken Cup semi-final. I’ve a lot of respect for Ronan O’Gara and what he’s achieved, but it was just the heat of the moment and what had gone on in the previous match. There was a lot made of it in Ireland. I’ve not put myself in that situation since – you learn lessons along the way.

“I’d played a couple of group games in that campaign but had then been left out of the squad around Christmas and the Six Nations. I had to fight to get back in the squad and I was recalled for the semi-final and it was a massive fixture in Irish sporting history, a massive occasion. I was thrown into the middle of it after Felipe Contepomi suffered a serious injury and then went on to play in the final – something I couldn’t have imagined three months previously when I was playing club rugby at St Mary’s.

FOR THE LATEST SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS, CLICK HERE

“The first thing I had to do when I came on was kick a penalty. There was quite a long delay for Felipe and then Johnny O’Hagan brought on the wrong kicking tee so I had to send him off and he had a bad ankle so it felt like forever that I was waiting to take that kick. A lot was going through my mind during those few minutes, it was racing, but thankfully I’d done a lot of work on that part of my game over those few months.

“It had been hard for me because every time I was playing for Leinster, Felipe was outside me at 12 and he took all the kicks then when I did get the chance (to kick) I wasn’t ready, so I said to myself during those few months that I would work on it and I needed to be ready for moments like that. It’s funny how things work out. I kicked that penalty and kicked in the final, and I was given the kicking responsibility the year after.”

THE BOND OF FRIENDSHIP, 2010

Sexton and Contepomi

Hugs all round: Johnny Sexton and Felipe Contepomi embrace after an Ireland-Argentina Test. Photo: Inpho

“Felipe (Contepomi) is one of my all-time idols. He’s someone I look up to and admire. Obviously I was cursing when I was sitting behind him at Leinster, but I got to learn a lot from him and playing with him at 12 was a great experience for me. I can’t speak highly enough of him and we still keep in touch. This was a game I got to play against him and we swapped jerseys later on. I’ve still got his jersey in my house and I’m sure when I finish up it’ll be one that I get framed, maybe with this picture. I couldn’t think of a better team-mate – someone who did so much for me.”

A MOMENT OF CONTEMPLATION, 2013

Johnny Sexton

Ritual: Johnny Sexton prays before a Lions fixture in 2013. Photo: Inpho

“I pray before every game. My granny and granddad would have been of big faith and it’s something I’ve done before games since I was in school and I still do now. It doesn’t mean you win every game and it doesn’t mean you are fit all the time, but I’ve not been seriously injured on the pitch, which is the main thing. You wouldn’t know I did that unless you were in the dressing room. It’s a personal thing for maybe a minute, just before we huddle up as a team.”

FACES OF FEAR, 2015

Ireland

Scream! Ireland players on a ride at Alton Towers during RWC 2015. Photo: Inpho

“We managed to get some downtime during the 2015 World Cup and this is one of the snapshots that shows how we’re like kids on a day off. The fact Paulie (O’Connell) looked so scared meant it got a lot of interest in Ireland. After a few hours at Alton Towers and the come down from all the adrenaline, everybody was too tired to slag him!”