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Sexton on 100 caps and competition for Ireland No.10 jersey

Sexton on 100 caps and competition for Ireland No.10 jersey

Johnny Sexton admits he never imagined “in a million years” that he would reach 100 caps for Ireland as he prepares to bring up a century against Japan.

The 36-year-old will lead his country out against the Brave Blossoms at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday in Ireland’s opening match of the Autumn Nations Series.

Sexton returns to the side for the first time since the Six Nations victory over England, having been stood down for the summer series wins over Japan and the USA.

And 12 years on from winning his first cap, Sexton said he has learned a lot since first donning the famous green jersey – although he never anticipated he would reach the 100 milestone.

“I hope I’d have improved as a player, built up experience over the years,” he said. “Obviously, lots of ups and downs through the last, whatever it’s been – 10, 11, 12 years, lots of ups and downs.

“But I think one thing as a ten you need to have is the ability to bounce back because you’re going to have days that don’t always go to plan.

“Some when you least expect it and how you bounce back, and I like to think I’ve always done that well. Like I said, never in a million years imagined that I would have got to 100 because when you get your first cap, you go ‘well if I get six, seven, eight years at the top, I’d be happy’.

“Suddenly it rolls into this, and you get to a milestone, or the potential milestone touch wood, that you didn’t dream of, so it’s something to look forward to if it happens.

“But at the moment, I’ve just got to get out on the pitch and train well and make sure that I get read out in the team for those games.”

Sexton is also well aware he needs to be at his best against Japan as there are a number of fly-half rivals snapping at his heels – a fact the veteran never takes for granted.

“You are always looking behind you to a certain extent but I’ve always been very forward thinking as well and trying to look after myself,” said Sexton.

“Trying to make sure that I’m the best I can be because if these young guys are coming behind you that are doing great stuff,  you can still only control yourself.

“That’s been my focus, especially in my 30s has been to try and get the best version of myself out there. I haven’t always done it, but I’ve tried to.

“There’s some great talent coming through – the two guys in the squad or three guys if you include Fraws [Ciaran Frawley] as a ten.

“They’ve got all the things that they need to be a top-quality international. It’s up to them to display the right attitude to go and do it. It’s a bumpy road at ten.

“I didn’t get my first cap until 24 so these guys are much further along the road than I was at that age. I was stuck behind Felipe [Contepomi] at Leinster and I felt like my career was going nowhere.

“So, you have just got to be ready when the day comes and those guys have got what it takes. They’ve just got to channel it, work hard and be ready to bounce back from adversity as well.”

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