Wallabies won't be targeting Sexton

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies are expecting ‘maestro’ Johnny Sexton to have a big say on the second June Test, but coach Michael Cheika says there won’t be a target on his back in Melbourne.

Sexton wrote in his 2013 book, Johnny Sexton: Becoming a Lion, that Cheika’s Waratahs circled him in their tour clash, saving some extra brutality for the playmaker, but Cheika laughed off the idea on Thursday.

“Ha, I saw Johnny, what he wrote about the game against the Lions with the Tahs,” he said.

“We just need to play our (game).

“If we start going out of the line trying to do that stuff, we will get picked off, so easily.

“When you do have the opportunity to go with linespeed, you all go together. Because he is smart enough to pick you off otherwise. And he is one of the toughest roosters out there.

“So you're not going to knock him about.

“I don't think there is any focus from me in regards to that. It's a nice storyline, though.”

Cheika knows Sexton well from his time coaching at Irish side Leinster, and the pair still stay in contact, with Wallabies 10 Bernard Foley cheekily joking that Cheika believes he taught Sexton everything he knows.

Foley said on Thursday the Irishman was ‘right up’ with the best flyhalves in the world.

"His ability to control the game, and the sort of influence he has on games is second to none," he said.

"I think the way he set it up for them to win that Six Nations and do the Grand Slam, especially you see that game against France, miserable conditions and he steps up and kicks that drop goal.

"He's right up there, he's been such a constant in that Irish side for a long time and Cheik probably thinks he taught him everything he knows.

That Cheika dubbed him their maestro underlines the respect he has for his former charge, acutely aware of his threats on and off the ball.

“He is the maestro. He is running the show, he is in charge and directing traffic all the time,” he said.

Bernard Foley has plenty of respect for his Irish counterpart. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“He is a great competitor and he is a great defensive player. Everyone talks about his attack, he is a great defensive player as well.”

Sexton will be raring to make an impact from the get go after coming off the bench in Brisbane, Foley said.

“You never want to be on the bench if you can be starting,” he said.

“You do your job for the team but you always want to be in that starting position, you always want to be in there controlling a game from the first whistle, and I'm sure he's a competitor and he'll bounce back and will have a say in this game.

“It's just us controlling his influence in the game.”

The Wallabies take on Ireland in the second June Test on Saturday June 16 at AAMI Park, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Channel Ten and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.