VIDEO: Candid Sexton reveals how he deals with big-match nerves

Fri, 11 May 2018 18:24

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP FINAL: Jonathan Sexton has a vast medal haul, but Ireland’s 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam winning flyhalf admits he still struggles with nerves ahead of big games.

Leinster faces Racing 92 in the final of the Champions Cup in Bilbao on Saturday and when asked by RugbyPass how he deals with the nerves on the day of a final the flyhalf admitted that it’s something he has to contend with for far longer in the build-up.

“The week of a final! I have been pretty nervous all week. You know you wake up the week of a big game you feel different. Sleep can be a struggle and the nerves can be a struggle, you just have to focus your attention on to getting what is important right and your preparation and putting all your energy into that and leaving all the distractions and all the hype and try and park it and just really focus on putting on a good performance. That’s what we did in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and throughout the group stage, so that has been key for us this week. We have trained really well, we have prepared really well and we’ve just got to go out and do it on the biggest stage.”

Sexton elaborated on how he tries to clear his head.

“Yeah going out training, going out kicking, they are all the things that really get your mind off the game, distract you while focusing you at the same time – which sounds a bit strange. I find that is when I am at my calmest, but it is when you get home and you’ve got lots of time to yourself that you worry about that. The older you get probably the nerves get worse, but the way you deal with them is a bit better.”

Sexton has been in the matchday squad in each of Leinster’s three Champions Cup successes, but it’s been six years since Leinster have been kings of Europe and a fourth title would seem them go level with Toulouse.

Meanwhile, Leo Cullen has revealed his reasons for leaving James Lowe out of his 23-man squad.

With only two “overseas” players allowed, Cullen has plumped for Scott Fardy in the back row, while Jamison Gibson-Park is selected on the bench as back up to Luke McGrath.

“There is a lot of different factors, I thought Jamison did very well in the semi-final against the Scarlets so in many ways he’s unlucky not to start the game. Scott has come in and he’s done well, he’s been a really good addition to the forwards and he’s a good leader in the group. It is not an easy decision”, Cullen said.

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