Jonathan Sexton: Lessons to be learned from painful Clermont defeat
Jonathan Sexton has called on Leinster to learn from last weekend’s Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Clermont Auvergne, as the province get set for a return to Guinness PRO12 duty against Glasgow Warriors on Friday.
Sexton contributed 17 points during a gutsy fightback in Lyon on Sunday, and the 31-year-old out-half feels there are lessons the squad can take from the heartbreaking defeat.
“When you lose a semi-final it’s probably the hardest match to lose because you get so close to that final and that occasion. But we have to learn from it.
“All the young guys and the older guys need to take lessons from it, and come back stronger for the rest of this season and next season.”
Leinster’s difficult opening half against Clermont (they trailed 15-3) was reminiscent of their previous trips to France this season – when they faced into interval deficits against both Montpellier and Castres in the pool stages.
Sexton acknowledged the importance of a good start against a side which have often struggled at the business end of European competition.
“The atmosphere that it was, we needed to start better. We spoke about the crowd and not letting them into [the game], putting a seed of doubt into Clermont heads, because they have had so many disappointments on that stage in home semi-finals. We needed to start much better than we did and we didn’t.”
However, despite the disappointment of missing out on a final with champions Saracens, Sexton believes Leinster are getting back to the level that saw them win three Heineken Cup titles in his first spell with the province (2006-13).
“In terms of showing how far we’ve come, I think we’ve shown that progress. That’s not being arrogant or anything, it’s just we have come a long way. It’s come full circle.
“It feels like having gone back to the days when we were winning European Cups for fun. I remember walking around after we won three in four years, and it was easy. It felt like ‘we’ve got this cracked now, it’s going to be like this every year.’ It just shows how special that team was.”
Sexton was speaking at the launch of the Bank Of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps at St Mary’s National School in Ranelagh, where he was joined by international team-mates Sean O’Brien and Jack McGrath.
All three were named in the Lions’ squad last week and although he is focused on a busy schedule with Leinster, McGrath was honoured to be selected as a touring player for the first time.
“It’s great to be selected for that. I think myself and Cian [Healy] have a good relationship with Leinster and Ireland. We’re always pushing each other. It’s well documented at this stage that that is the case,” McGrath stated.
When your name is called, it’s a massive weight off, because you never know what way it’s going to go. There is a lot of rugby to be played from now until that tour. It’s nice to be selected, but you still have to get on that plane.”
The Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Camps which will run in 27 different venues across the province throughout July and August. Visit www.leinsterrugby.ie/camps for information.